I was chipping in about Irish history on Fred Johnson’s page when something hit my “Tory History of Ireland” button – as in Tory Island, not David Cameron – specifically the phrase ‘all kings and sons of kings’ which cropped up in a James Joyce lecture to the Triestinos in 1907. What follows is an attempt to write that history in Facebook form.
Uniquely, I think, the Irish escaped the feudal system which was ‘general’ in Europe other than in the form of a late and partial imposition by the Normans. Instead, they had a system of tribal territory in which – theoretically at least – everyone in the ‘tuath’ (people, tribe or sept) shared in the ‘ownership’ of the tribal territory – which fluctuated according to the moment but was centrally tied down to tutelary dieties, landscape features and so on. As a result, no one owned the land, which was actually the grounds of a social system in which the chief was said to be ‘married’ the territory in a kind of quasi-mythic union supported by bardic tradition. Continue reading