I meant to add a bit more to the post about what Geraldis Cambrensis said about the Irish, basically to point out that the man was describing the country by way of an invitation – “it’s a nice place, it’s got the stuff you want, there’s nothing poisonous there, the rain is a good thing and the people are handsome and healthy but they don’t deserve what the have and are too lazy to make proper use of it. Best they learn their proper place in life and we took over really” – Thanks for that Geraldis.
Obviously being taught in an Irish school we’ve a different spin on things. I remember my teacher singing the praises of the “Isle of Saints and Scholars”. As a child I was quite convinced our little green island on the edge of Europe – though never having been an empire or conquered half the known world – had had a golden age of learning and art that helped keep a light burning while Europe stumbled through the early part of its Dark Ages.
Ireland was supposed to have had higher than average literacy, our Bards were held in high esteem and monks learned extremely high standards of Latin and Greek and were excellent theologians, philosophers and mathematicians. The Brehon Laws gave women more rights than in most of Europe (still crap, of course, but *better than most of Europe*), and there was some reasonably enlightened bits and pieces in there (a post for another day I think.) Kings in other parts of Europe looked for Irish advisors. St Columbanus was HUGE in Europe, pulling a sort of ‘colonisation by stealth’ thing with his monastery building, and, of course, St. Brendan the Navigator discovered America. We had some run ins with the Vikings but they settled in eventually. The subtext of all of this is, of course, “It was all great til the bloody Normans showed up”. The Normans too were settling in and doing their “more Irish than the Irish” bit, but it all went to hell in a handcart with Henry VIII’s shiny new religion and the plantations.
I’ve deliberately written all of the above to include my taught tendency to refer to a historical people – the Irish – as “us” and “we”. It’s like signing up with the National team, picking a badge or a flag or a colour to belong to. Belonging in this way affects the way you look at history. I find this utterly fascinating now I come to look at it as a SCAdian. I can choose to be Irish, as I have done, and maintain a sympathetic ear for “my” people. If I chose to be from another country my persona could learn to be horrified about the long haired freaks on that God forsaken lump at the edge of Europe who think they know better than everyone else and have decided they are the only ones capable of calculating Easter correctly, the *nerve!!* The people that did these things I mentioned above, who made the choices, fought the battles, forged the alliances and committed the treasons – for good or bad – are long gone. The things that happened happened to them, not to me. They are natives of another country – the past – and exploring that with a persona is a really interesting way to look at history and how you interact with it.