Keith A. Waters

title.none: Lyttleton and O'Keeffe, eds., Manor in Medieval and Early Modern Ireland (Keith A. Waters)

identifier.other: baj9928.0710.020 07.10.20

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Keith A. Waters, University of Sunderland,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: Lyttleton, James and Tadhg O'Keeffe. The Manor in Medieval and Early Modern Ireland. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005. Pp. 216. 65.00 1-85182-746-3. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.10.20

Lyttleton, James and Tadhg O'Keeffe. The Manor in Medieval and Early Modern Ireland. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2005. Pp. 216. 65.00 1-85182-746-3. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Keith A. Waters
University of Sunderland

The Manor in Medieval and Early Modern Ireland, edited by James Lyttleton and Tadhg O'Keeffe is a collection of six interdisciplinary essays by recent Archaeology graduates from Irish Universities with a "Forward" by Brian Graham and an "Afterword" by Tadhg O'Keeffe. The volume was conceived and carried forward under the auspices of the Group for the Study of Irish Historical Settlement.

Graham's "Forward" is both introduction and book review: placing this volume into the context of recent work in the study of Irish settlement patterns as well as commenting on both its strengths and weaknesses. O'Keefe's "Afterword" sets out to suggest a wider context for the volume and to advocate a possible course for future research. Both Graham and O'Keefe stress the point that the Historical Geography and the Archaeology of Medieval Irish settlement patterns has reached the point where the general synthesis developed during the last 40 years is coming under closer scrutiny in the form of comparisons between individual sites and the generic patterns assumed by the general theory. Both highlight this as the main role of the volume.

The six essays which make up the bulk of this volume do aim for the "interdisciplinary" label applied to them; there are significant elements of Archaeology, Historical Geography and History in each of the essays. Not surprisingly, the emphasis is on Archaeology with the analysis heavily influenced and informed by Historical Geography. Each essay also draws on the history of the manor, manors or region under discussion but with more mixed results. The historical analysis applied in several of these essays is based on older and, occasionally, outdated historical theory. Unsurprisingly, where this is the case, it is usually due to a reliance on older works which ignored the academic penchant of part of the past century for carefully sectioning off the study of settlement into "history," "historical geography" and "archaeology." While imperfect in places, this volume is certainly another step in the effort to eliminate those false divides.

The first essay in the volume is Mark Keegan's "The archaeology of manorial settlement in west county Limerick in the thirteenth century." This essay focuses on the five westernmost cantreds of Limerick. The essay begins with a summary of the history of the region and then goes on to discuss the archaeological remains of the region with reference to settlement theory. Perhaps the most intriguing element of this essay is Keegan's argument against the interpretation of isolated moated sites in the region as a feature of later expansion, arguing instead for an earlier date for these sites.

The second and third essays are Linda Shine's study of an individual manor--the manor of Earlstown, county Kilkenny--and Matthew Seaver's "Practice, spaces and places: an archaeology of boroughs as manorial centres in the barony of Slane." Both take a similar approach to that used by Keegan; they first summarise the history of the region and then present a survey and interpretation of the archaeological features. Seaver's essay includes a discussion of both pre- and post-invasion settlement and though he makes tantalizing references to the continuity and change in usage across this period, there is limited development of the theme.

Continuity and change are a more prominent feature of the fourth and fifth essays. The fourth essay is Sinad Armstrong-Anthony's "From Anglo-Norman manor to plantation estate: an archaeological survey of Monasteroris, county Offaly". Armstrong-Anthony uses both the standing remains and the historical evidence to trace the evolution of this manor from Anglo-Norman site, to monastic site, to Gaelic site (with a brief English occupation), to plantation site. This essay stresses a number of points where further work is necessary both in terms of archaeological research in the region to improve the dating of site usage and in terms of locating and investigating additional sites for comparison particularly in terms of monastic usage.

The fifth essay, "The Manor in East County Wicklow" by Brian Shanahan, takes a more integrated approach to the three interdisciplinary elements present in these essays. Shanahan's main focus in this essay is on continuity and change across almost the entire chronological period of this volume--pre-invasion to reconquest. The author focuses on the reasons for construction and the uses for and impact of structures, particularly with reference to the role of the manor as a colonial tool in both the Anglo-Norman and reconquest periods. His main emphasis is on dwellings but he also makes reference to churches in instances where they represent significant indicators of influence. Naturally, the most developed discussion relates to the later period when the evidence is better but the essay achieves a balanced discussion of the whole period.

The final essay is the most limited in chronological scope and addresses the latest period covered. William Roulston's essay, "Seventeenth-century manors in the barony of Strabane," uses both the historical and archaeological record to construct a detailed account of the development and longevity of plantation fortifications (castles and bawns) as well as towns, villages and rural settlements.

The "Afterword" by Tadhg O'Keeffe is not a conclusion but rather an argument for how to proceed within the field of settlement studies. The basic message is that while much has been accomplished since the 60s, there is still much to be done. He concludes with an argument for renewed consideration of "frontier" and of the "manor" particularly in southwest Ireland.

The need to compare local realities to broad theories seeking to explain conditions throughout Ireland is far from unique to the study of Irish historical settlement and essays such as the six in this volume, with their tight geographic focus, have much to offer to the study of Irish settlements but they are also useful to a number of other related areas of research. However, no volume is without fault. Perhaps the key weakness of this volume is the one raised by Graham in his forward; the authors of these six essays rarely highlight the points where their findings conflict with general settlement theory. A similar fault is also visible in the historical element of these essays in that the authors do not comment on points where their historical interpretation of these sites varies from previous work. While some of these instances appear to be related to the previously mentioned problem regarding historical interpretation, some are alternate interpretations which would have benefited from further discussion.