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Research seminar «Ireland and the Irish in the imperial project of late Tudors: mythologeme, practices of describing and paths of incorporation»

On Novermber 2 at the eleventh session of the research seminar “Languages for Describing the Other in Early Modern Europe: Social Contexts and Repertoires of Interpretation” a PhD student of Saint Petersburg State University Evgenii Tishunin presented his paper «Ireland and the Irish in the imperial project of late Tudors: mythologeme, practices of describing and paths of incorporation»

E. Tishunin discussed the issue of the origins of the imperial idea in England and its role in annexation of Ireland to the crown. He asserted that imperial idea in England originated in the Middle ages when the formula “Rex est imperator in regno suo” denoted supreme authority of the monarch.  With the reception of late Classical works, the image of the Roman Empire as composite monarchy comprising different territories under the rule of one king began to influence the formations of the imperial idea. 

Imperial idea was articulated during the reign of Henry VIII. The desire of the king to obtain a divorce with Catherine of Aragon led to the abolition of supremacy of Rome in the British Isles. The imperial status of English kingdom was declared which was aimed at strengthening the royal power. During the period the concept of English civility, an idea concerned with superiority of English law, religion, institutions etc over other peoples of the British Isles, was actualized. 

The works of Giraldus Cambrensis set the foundations of the language to describe the «Other». Its key patterns of description of the Irish were reproduced in the 16th century. Programme narratives were created explaining how Ireland should be reformed and annexed to the crown. By the end of the 16th century six hundred such texts had emerged — propagandist pamphlets, treatises etc. During the 16th century the programme of empire-building would be adopted in Ireland aiming at transferring English political body to Ireland. 

E. Tishunin highlighted that portrayal of the native population as complete barbarians was a characteristic aspect of the describing of Irishness. The works usually criticized local elite which rarely integrated into social order of the Crown. Ireland was represented as a territory where civility could be transplanted in order to guide Ireland to the same stage of civility as England. 

After the presentation the participants considered the fragments from Thomas Smith, Richard Beacon, and Edmund Spenser and discussed the discourse of civility as an integral element of imperial discourse and cultural relativism in early modern time.