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England and the Irish Sea Zone in the Eleventh Century

Clare Downham

Many historicalstudies havebeenwrittenaboutAnglo-Irishrelations in theyears im-mediately after the English invasion of Ireland in 1169. That the invasion shouldhave an important place in research is understandable, given its long-term impact andits implications in recent historical and political debate. In contrast, very few publi-cations have focused on Anglo-Irish political interaction in the eleventh century. In this paper,I hope to draw more attention to this some what neglected field of enquiry.The emphasis of historical scholarship on the invasion and its aftermath hasperhaps influenced the interpretation of earlier events. The issues in the eleventhcentury which have been studied most are those which can be seen to foreshadow thelater invasion. These include Canterbury’s claims of ecclesiastical primacy, and the alleged ambitions of Knútr or William the Conqueror to dominate Irish rulers. Meanwhile, research on a wider range of issues has been lacking. The resulting nar-rative gives a rather selective view of events. This hindsight perspective has, Isuggest, meant that England’s domination of Irish rulers in the eleventh century hastended to be exaggerated. Furthermore Ireland’s impact on England has generallybeen underestimated.

In this paper I seek to highlight Ireland’s significance inEnglish affairs from the reign of Æthelred the Unready to that of William Rufus.

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