Ireland, Sir Walter Raleigh, and the Origin of Scalping

The Story of Ireland Part 2

BBC (2011)

Film Review

Part 2 of the Story of Ireland covers the period 1100 – 1500 AD

During the 12th century Ireland was ruled by five provincial kings. One of them, Dermot of Lenster, sought an alliance with the Anglo-Norman (English) king Henry II to make himself king of all Ireland. Pope Adrian, who disagreed with the gnostic Irish version of Catholicism, granted permission for Henry to invade.

After Ireland became an English colony, new Anglo-Norman lords claimed the best land for their estates and created an Irish parliament and a judicial system based on English common law. However they held no sway outside the townships and were subject to constant raids by Irish peasants.

After the Black Plague hit Ireland in 1348, many English lords fled back to England and the Gaelic kings regrouped and reclaimed their old estates.

During his reign (1509-1547), Henry VIII made several half-hearted attempts to subdue the Irish lords. His daughter Elizabeth I would engage Sir Walter Raleigh to subdue Ireland by destroying its infrastructure and massacring its civilians.*

Thirty thousand Irish died under Raleigh, many from famine.

Raleigh could not subdue the northern province of Ulster, and which allied with King Phillip of Spain in 1601 in an unsuccessful attempt to retake Ireland from England.


*Ireland was the birthplace of warfare directed against civilians, also known as “total warfare,” “irregular warfare,” or “counterinsurgency.” It was here the practice of scalping and paying bounties for severed heads or scalps was first introduced. For centuries, it has been blamed on Native Americans, but it was initiated by the English in Ireland.

 

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