Hidden History: The Potato Famine and the Rise of Irish Nationalism

The Story of Ireland Part 4 (1801-1900)

BBC

Film Review

In 1801, the British Parliament passed the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland, official incorporation Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Highlights of this period include the Potato Famine (1841-1846) led one million Irish tenant farmers to die of starvation and disease and 1.5 million to emigrate to England and the US.

The Fenian Brotherhood, a revolutionary organization which began in Ireland in the 1860s, gave rise to a sister Fenian Brotherhood in the US. The latter raised major sums of money they sent back to Ireland to save poor tenant farmers from eviction.

In 1881, British Prime Minister William Gladstone passed a number of laws sought by Irish reformers, including legal protection for Irish tenant farmers against eviction and rent increases and the right to purchase their own land. He also repealed the Penal Laws that required Catholics (the majority of the Irish population) and Ulster Calvinists to pay taxes supporting the Anglican Church and preventing them from voting or standing for office.

He also supported Irish nationalist MP Charles Parnell’s bill establishing Home Rule for Ireland (Gladstone needed the votes of Parnell’s MPs to remain in office). It was defeated by 30 votes.

In 1899 when the Boer Republics revolted against British rule, numerous Irish nationalists (including Arthur Griffith – the eventual founder of Sinn Fein*) traveled to South Africa to  support the Boers in the war against the British.


*Sinn Fein is an Irish republican party formed in 1905 in support of Irish independence and unification.

Reclaiming Our History: The Irish Origin of Settler Colonialism

The Story of Ireland Part 3

BBC (2011)

Film Review

Part 3, which covers the period 1601-1800, begins with the resettlement of thousands of Calvinist Scots in Northern Ireland to subdue the indigenous Catholic population. This successful model of “settler colonialism” would be repeated in North America, Australia, New Zealand, Australia and by Israel in occupied Palestine.

Following the execution of Charles I in 1649, Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland, massacring 3,000 civilians. His 1652 Act of Settlement would deprive Catholic landowners of their property and exile them west of the Shannon River.

In 1690, England’s Protestant lords invited William of Orange from the Dutch republics to dethrone the last Catholic king James II.

Although Catholicism remained Ireland’s state religion, William III’s Penal Laws imposed harsh restrictions on both Catholics and Ulster Calvinists, who were banned from voting, serving in parliament, holding office or running schools. This would cause a massive flood of Scotch-Irish and Catholic immigrants to North America.

Towards the end of the 18th century, Ireland’s Catholic majority became more and more rebellious, inspired by the American (1776) and French (1789) revolutions. In 1796, the new French Republic agreed to provide 15,000 troops to support a (unsuccessful) revolution in Ireland.

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.

 

Reclaiming Our History: The Myth of Celtic Purity in Ireland

The Story of Ireland: A History of the Irish People

BBC

Film Review

This is the first (of five) episodes in the BBC documentary series on the history of Ireland, which provides a comprehensive history of the use of (English and Scottish) settler colonialism to subdue the indigenous population. This model which would be copied in North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and by Israel in the displacement of the indigenous Palestinian population.

Part 1, covering the period 8000 BC to 1100 AD, dispels the myth of Celtic purity in Ireland.

It describes the first human settlers arriving in Ireland immediately after the last Ice Age. They would begin farming around 4,000 BC, and there is clear evidence of trading with the Baltic region and Iberian peninsula from 2,500 BC on. Contrary to more recent mythology, ancient Irish inhabitants weren’t genetically distinct from Celtic settlers in Britain or northern France.

During the Roman occupation of Britain (55 BC to 383 AD), the early Irish exported cattle and leather products to British elites.

Following the departure of the Roman legions in 383 AD, Irish raids on the west coast of Britain increased. Britons were captured as slaves to fuel Ireland’s thriving slave trade. St Patrick, who is credited with bringing Catholicism to Ireland, was a Welshman initially brought to Ireland as a slave.

Ireland’s feuding tribal kings welcomed the advent of Christian monasteries to help them consolidate their power. The monks developed a written alphabet for the Celtic language, and Irish monasteries became a global center of learning as literacy declined on the European continent.

Over the 8th, 9th and 10th century, Ireland was hit by a series of Viking raids and invasions. The latter, who had trade routes extending as far as the Baltic Sea and Constantinople, established the city of Dublin as Europe’s largest slave market.

By the 11th century, the Vikings had thoroughly integrated into Celtic society through intermarriage and conversion to Catholicism.

Reclaiming Our History: the Myth of Britain’s “Dark Ages”

King Arthur’s Britain

Directed by Francis Pryor (2005)

Film Review

This is a series of three documentaries using modern archeological techniques to explode common myths we’re taught about the history of Britain and the “savages” who were allegedly “civilized” by the Romans and the Catholic church.

In Part 1, filmmakers challenge notions that Rome violently invaded and occupied Britain in 43 AD. Archeological remains suggest that early Britons (Celts) traded with Rome and became acquainted with their literature during the century preceded the alleged Roman invasion. It also appears ones of the British tribal kings requested Rome to send troops to protect him against enemy invaders. I was fascinated to learn that Gnosticism* persisted in Britain long after Constantine banned it (in 380 AD).

Part 2 disputes historical claims that British civilization and culture collapsed after Roman legions withdrew and the designation of the period 410 – 597 AD ad the “Dark Age. In 597 AD Pope Gregory sent St Augustine to England to convert the (Gnostic) Anglo Saxons to Christianity.

Part 3 challenges the myth of the Anglo Saxon invasion that allegedly occurred in the fifth century. Isotope analysis and a new technique called gradeometry suggest what really happened was a gradual assimilation of Germanic (primarily Fresian, Angle and Saxon) immigrants over the period 2,000 BC to 500 AD. The effect of this assimilation can also be seen in the Celtic influence over the development of the English language. The latter differs markedly from other Germanic languages. See Hidden History: The Myth of Anglo Saxon Purity


*Gnosticism refers to a collection of early pagan, Jewish and Christian beliefs which maintained that followers could instinctively experience the presence of God without the intermediation of a priesthood.

1381: When “Ignorant” Peasants Nearly Overthrew the English Monarchy

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that all our history books write the popular revolts out of history. Thanks to the Internet, I’m now learning that revolting against oppression is normal and natural behavior.

This documentary recounts the Peasants Revolt of 1381, a two-week period in which a band of so-called “ignorant peasants” nearly overthrew the English monarchy. In school, we’re taught that John Locke, Rousseau and other intellectuals “re-discovered” democracy (by studying ancient Greece and Rome). This is a bold faced lie. English serfs were fighting for freedom and self-governance as early as 1381.

The Tax Commissioners Who Stuck Their Hands Up Women’s Skirts

The immediate trigger for the uprising was a poll tax,* instituted by the Regent for 14 year-old Richard II, to pay for the 100 Years War against France. Rural peasants were outraged by the manner in which the tax was enforced – tax commissioners stuck their hands up women’s skirts to ascertain their marital status (they didn’t have to pay the tax if they were virgins).

The rebellion began when a band of Essex serfs successfully drove the tax collector out of their village, beheading three of the troops who accompanied them. The insurrection quickly spread to Kent, Canterbury, Cambridge and across the rest of England.

Uses cleverly coded written message, the leaders organized a march on London with a goal of demanding a meeting with the king. Peasants were joined by rebel knights who refused to be drafted to fight in France. Their march, which picked up new supporters along the way, was accompanied by a campaign of targeted violence, against castles holding tax documents, and selected landlords and clergy.

Richard II Agrees to Their Demands

Joined by disgruntled Londoners once they reached the capitol, they sacked the Court of Justice and dragged out all the lawyers and beheaded them. Because most of his army was in France, Richard II and his advisors were forced to seek refuge in the Tower of London. The King eventually met with the rebels to receive their four demands 1) an end to serfdom** 2) freedom to sell products of their labor without interference from a landlord 3) a reduction in land rents and 4) a guarantee no rebels would be punished.

When Richard II issued written decrees (later revoked) granting their demands, about half the rebels returned home to their farms.

The leader Wat Tyler and 300-400 of the more militant rebels went on to storm the Tower (when an insider conveniently let the drawbridge down). In addition to killing most of the King’s advisors they sacked most of the furnishings and confiscated 900 long bows they would use during the final confrontation with the King – at Smithfield.

There Tyler pressed the rebels additional demands for the abolition of the aristocracy (except for the King) and the church hierarchy (except for John Ball a radical priest they wanted installed as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the division of all the riches of the aristocracy and clergy among the people and the right of villagers to administer their own local courts and police force.

Richard II Outwits Them

After agreeing to all these demands, the fourteen-year-old King outwitted the well-armed rebels (by playing on their belief the King was anointed by God) – who outnumbered Richard II’s forces by two to one.

There would be similar uprisings throughout the 15th and 16th century, which have been conveniently whitewashed from history.


*A poll tax charges everyone the same amount of tax, regardless of their income or wealth. This was the first poll tax in English history.

**in 1381, a serf was a virtual slave and couldn’t move or marry or without the landlord’s permission.

Obama: A Legacy of Ashes

Obama: A Legacy of Ashes

James Corbett (2017)

Film Review

In his excellent documentary about Obama’s presidency, James Corbett highlights important ways in which Obama systematically reduced civil liberties and democratic oversight of government.

  • After promising to end George W Bush’s de facto lawmaking via unconstitutional signing statements, Obama far signing statements than his predecessor.
  • He repeatedly inserted text into bills without informing lawmakers before they voted on them.
  • After promising to end the role of lobbyists in running government, he allowed Citibank to select his cabinet and the insurance lobby to write The Affordable Care Act.
  • While claiming to run the most transparent administration in history, he set a record for denying Freedom of Information Act requests and prosecuting whistleblowers.
  • Despite promising to end illegal wiretapping and spying on activists, he greatly increased routine NSA surveillance of ordinary citizens. He also introduced legislation repealing Posse Comitatus* and authorizing indefinite detention of American citizens without trial. And issued an executive order granting himself the power (which he exercised liberally) to arbitrarily assassinate his enemies, including US citizens.

Obama was also the only president in history who was continuously at war during his entire eight years in office.** All but two (which he inherited from Bush) were illegal and unconstitutional wars he launched without government approval.

I was intrigued to learn the Patriot Act (enacted by the Bush administration after 9-11) was originally written by Obama’s vice president Joe Biden in 1995.


*The 1878 Posse Comitatus Act prohibited the US government using federal troops in domestic law enforcement, except in circumstances expressly authorized by the US Constitution.

**In addition to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which candidate Obama promised to end), he launched illegal wars of aggression in Libya, Syria, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.