5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 12 November 2010
Sixteen years after it was first published this book remains far and away the outstanding general history of sixteenth-century Ireland. Lennon, whose expertise is in the towns of Ireland, religious guilds and ecclesiastical history, makes his book stand head and shoulders above all others due to its very strong social history component. Rather than focusing on the elite-focused 'constitutional' dimension beloved of the British historian Geoffrey Elton and his followers, Lennon places his emphasis on the towns, their trading links across Europe and within Ireland and, what I particularly enjoyed, the relationship between towns and their hinterlands. In this he examined mercantile networks, trading alliances, supply systems and got stuck into the ins and outs of day-to-day life. He excelled here. In the towns he gives great analyses of trade guilds and religious guilds and compellingly demonstrates the absolute control town patricians wielded through controlling the guilds. He explores the massive religious processions in cities like Dublin, something I had never known about. Each page made me re-imagine sixteenth-century Ireland better and develop a much more sophisticated understanding of society and power structures. If you're looking to understand narrow high politics issues, this book is probably not for you. But, as Lennon states at the outset of his study, the localities and not distant cities or countries were at the centre of sixteeth-century life. His emphasis in this book is faithful to this sixteenth-century reality throughout.