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If the objective of colonisation should be the establishment of economic benefit, in Ireland it was to enforce order. Settlers were required to usurp the traditional lands of its indigenous population. Their attempts to enforce Protestantism in all its forms onto the dogmatically Catholic locality were doomed to failure. With unrest continuing, Ireland became the battleground for the English Civil War fought out between Royalist and Parliamentarian to the detriment of its people.
The availability of cheap Irish labour soon led to calls to protect English agricultural prices. Fears that Irish goods would undercut English production costs led to calls to prevent the development of an Irish industrial revolution, despite the desperate need to employ the surplus rural population. This inevitably led to famine. No one believed the problem which was unfolding despite all the efforts of Nationalist politicians. English land owners in Parliament were only concerned to protect landlord interests and to score points off their political opponents. If home rule could not be delivered by political means, it was inevitable that it would be delivered by force.
Inextricably linked with the history of Britain, Stedall guides the reader through Ireland’s turbulent but rich history. To understand the causes behind the twentieth-century conflict, which continues to resonate today, we must look to the long arc of history in order to truly understand the historical roots of a nation’s conflict.
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