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on 15 May 2013
Jonathan Bardon has established himself firmly in the front rank of chroniclers of Ulster. His "A History of Ulster" is an outstanding work, essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what makes the place tick.

In this book, he focusses on one particular episode, which, more than any other, has made Northern Ireland the mess that it is. Indeed, considering what happened back then, it's a miracle that the wee place isn't even more messed up than it currently is. It tells the tale of the desire on the part of the English (well, James I of England who was also James VI of Scotland, so he had a foot in both camps) to render Ulster, the most Gaelic part of Ireland, less hostile by replacing its native population with more amenable, more civilised people from England and Scotland - and most importantly, people lacking the Popish superstition of those natives. The Irish were simply to be pushed off to poorer, less desirable parts, in a sort of early version of ethnic cleansing. This never actually worked out as much as intended (the settlers needed the local knowledge of the natives), but the intent was there. There follows a generally sorry tale of appropriation, rebellion, bloodshed and famine, both natural and man-made. The book ends with a truly panoramic and breathtaking final chapter, which takes in the legacy of the Plantation in all sorts of unexpected ways, including the origins of the "Scotch-Irish", whose learnt lessons of opening up unknown territory in Ulster occupied by hostile locals were to be invaluable in the colonies in the New World.

Dr, Bardon tells his story in an interesting manner, using many contemporary quotations, and with a historian's professional detachment, which makes the contents all the more absorbing. It takes you back to a different time to people of a very different mindset, one that has vanished in England, but that lingers on in Norn Iron to this day. As a native of Belfast, I was fascinated to find out why we have, for example, a Chichester Street and a Waring Street, how my anglicised Irish surname came to be and how my grandmother's story attributing her combative nature to being a born in a wee house on the Shankill in 1898 as soldiers lay outside shooting was probably quite true.

This is an invaluable book and, like Dr. Bardon's earlier tome, a must for anyone wishing to understand the North of Ireland. As Dr. Bardon puts it in that last brilliant chapter, the Plantation was bad enough, but its coincidence with the struggle between the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation made it even more disastrous. Things have finally, hopefully, started to change; we still have a long way to go, but I'm hopeful that at last we're on the way.
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on 29 July 2012
This book is a condensation of thousands of references ,mostly English,about the reasons and implementation of the plantation in Ulster.
I must admit that being a native of Ulster helps to appreciate the myriad references to the places mentioned,and as I have been away from my homeland for fifty years my greatest desire is to return and relive those stirring times. It will be a book to interest all of the political factions in this corner of Ireland as it depicts the Anglican English trying to understand these wild Gaelic speaking Catholics
who have no wish to be governed by their new masters.Gripping stuff and a credit to Bardon.
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on 18 July 2017
This is a superb, detailed explanation of what happened in Ulster history over an extended, key period of time. Not many of the people involved emerge well from it.
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on 19 December 2011
Jonathan Bardon has written many hugely popular and widely acclaimed books on Irish history but I doubt if he has produced a more important one than this.

There has never been an account of the Plantation of Ulster so accessible to scholars and general readers alike. Thorough and balanced it sets events in their global context as well as in relation to the titanic European contest between Reformation and Counter Reformation. As a student of history more than 50 years ago I longed for such a book. My years of teaching would have been much more fruitful if there had been anything similar available.

Jonathan Bardon makes it clear from the start that colonization, racism and religious fervour have been (and still are) eternal and universal themes. One need look no further than Libya-so much in the news this year-victim of Mussolini's ambitious Plantations and evictions in the 1930's, attended by similar notions of racial superiority and claims of civilizing the natives while claiming all that was best for the invader.

Noting that others shared similar fates, however, does nothing to diminish the shocking nature of the atrocities committed. This "Plantation of Ulster" is no dehydrated history. In many aspects it is a horror story. At the same time it brought with it many positive changes and ironically the opportunity for the native Irish ultimately to make English the language in which they became world leaders.

Reading the names of the protagonists we soon begin to reflect not only on their very complex origins but on the political and religious diversity of their present day descendants. Many of the descendants of those who suffered or inflicted suffering ended up on the "other" side,through inter-marriage and/or conversion.

And not only us.

Douglas Carson(quoted in the frontispiece) tells us, with inimitable brevity, that Queen Elizabeth II herself is descended on her mother's side from Sorcha, the daughter of Hugh O'Neill, the defeated Earl of Tyrone. In a real sense she embodies both sides of the contest.

I believe that Bardon's "Plantation", so thorough and reasonable, and wonderfully well written, will help current and future generations in Ulster to better understand one another.
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on 25 May 2013
As an Irishman from Ulster who has lived outside my homeland for almost 14 years I found this to be a fascinating and yet also very sad book to read. The material contained in the book has much to offer people who want to try to understand the complex and painful history of Ulster. I feel that too many people - from both Ireland and beyond - are content to accept an understanding of the past that is no more than a surface story. This book takes the reader on a much deeper journey into the past and assists her or him to appreciate better the issues and complexities of the present. I thoroughly recommend this book.
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on 17 August 2015
This is an excellent account: scholarly, comprehensive and above all readable. I read it all immediately, and have revisited parts of it since. There is something for everyone with Ulster plantation roots, and it will remain on my study bookshelf. Jonathan Bardon is adept at exploding myths: the Province would be a better place if more of us studied this book!
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on 20 March 2014
Opinionated is fine, intellectually lightweight is OK in some circumstances but the two don't go together very well. Interesting subject and readable too but there are better books dealing with it and which are available in this very emporium!
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on 7 February 2015
This is probably the most disappointing book I ever purchased. The author is well-known and much praised. I had covered the ground in my own book on sixteenth century Ireland, and I had hoped to expand my knowledge of the period. I had scarcely begun to peruse the book when I came across the word 'British'. Oh dear, I thought and promptly removed one star. The word in the 16th century should of course be 'English'.'Irish' he use for the Gaelic-speaking chiefs in Ulster, ignoring the Irish in the rest of Ireland, and in particular the Irish Government in Dublin. The Gaelic chiefs were in any case of mixed race, and had been since the 12th century. The next word that struck me was 'colonisation'. This word is redolent of the de-colonisation in the years after the Second World War. When James I used the term colonies, he used it in the Roman sense of small settlements of loyal citizens who would support the emperor.The Gaelic chiefs did not represent the Irish. They were interested only in themselves

It was clear that Bardon had never cleared his mind of the 19th century propaganda version of Irish history, in which the 'Irish' were always innocent victims of oppression which the English/British were paragons of wickedness. This ignores the fact that most Gaelic chiefs could have fitted themselves easily into the ranks of the Gestapo or SS. Nor did they spend centuries trying to throw off the foreign yoke.In fact they never made a single attempt to get rid of the Justiciar or Lord Lieutenant. There was a good reason for this. They could never agree which one of them should be king of Ireland, and none of them was strong enough to achieve this. So other chiefs should be prevented from achieving the crown.

On the other hand, the 19th century stereotype of the Englishman is perpetuated. Traditional epithets like 'barbarous' and ' treacherous' are bandied about. Yet if he had read Sir John Davies carefully he would have seen what the policy of the Irish and British Governments actually were. (It is another 19th century trait to ignore the Irish Government which was composed mostly of Irishmen. They did not fit into the propaganda picture.)
The aim was to reduce the power of the greater chiefs over their urraghs and so reduce their capacity to make war. According to Brehon Law, every chief, even the least, had the right to make war. The lesser chiefs were made subject directly to the crown, and as freeholders had a right to sit on the county grand jury. The ordinary machinery of the administration of law as practised in England and the rest of Ireland was to be put in place in the shires of Ulster.

The mensal lands of the great chiefs were escheated to the crown and some of it was to be taken for colonies of loyal settlers. There was no intention of diminishing the status of the Gaelic chiefs. Indeed on their submission they were often knighted. The situation was changed somewhat with the Flight of the Earls when the mensal lands of the O'Neills, O'Donnells, and Magures were forfeited. The O'Cahans of Derry got themselves foolishly involved, and their mensal lands were forfeited too.

Colonisation was not a new policy. It was a way of controlling turbulent chiefs that had been introduced by King John in the 12th century, often with the co-operation of the local paramount chief.

On the maps, one is particularly misleading, and that is the one of the 1641 rebellion. It convey the impression of the occupation of Ulster by the rebels. Actually it records surprise and often treacherous attacks on places to get arms, which the rebels badly needed. They were unable to hold those places and were forced back into mid-Ulster behind the Blackwater. Militarily they were negligible during the rest of the war, Owen Roe O'Neills victory at Benburb notwithstanding.

Is there anything good to be said about this book? There is, if the 19th century propaganda is ignored.Though the main picture is distorted, there is much useful detail to be filtered out.
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on 17 February 2014
Why is it so few people now living in Ulster know anything at all about this? The book reads a bit like a historical novel and explains in colourful detail the characters and events that were seminal in creating the landscape that we all live in today
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on 3 March 2016
Very good e-book about Irish history I enjoyed it very much hope read more about Irish history I would buy this book you not be disappointed
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