Maps in the 1600s

Munster: From a proof copy of John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, which was first published 1611/12. Cambridge University Library classmark: Atlas.2.61.1. Munster and the other provinces maps can be got at The 400th anniversary of the production of the world’s great maps, which includes the four provinces of Ireland is being marked in a special way by Cambridge University Library.

The maps were printed from copper plates which had been engraved, in reverse, by Jodocus Hondius in his workshop in Amsterdam. Maps printed from the plates – proofs – would have been sent back to England for checking. The maps in Cambridge University Library’s set of proofs are in a late state of preparation, but many were altered before being published. The map of Cheshire, which had been produced as early as 1603 by English engraver William Rogers, was completely replaced following the death of Rogers in 1604. These maps show the ownership of land at that particular time.

The native Irish Clan Chiefs having been pushed from their original strongholds by the Norman Invaders began building castles also in their new location. The O’Sullivan Clan were forced to uproot themselves from Cashel and go to marginal lands of West Cork and South Kerry in the former and North Cork in the later case. The O’Keeffes’ had to move from Glanworth – north of Fermoy up the valley of the River Bride and Blackwater to Glenville, Dunbulloge, Dromagh and  Cullain ui Caoimh (Ballydesmond) in Co Cork. The McCarthy Mor had to retreat to Blarney and Macroom – the lands of South West Co. Cork. The O’Mahonys went westwards where they wrestled some land off the O’Driscoll, O’Cowhigs and others. The McCarthys were associated some 50 castles, the O’Driscolls and the O’Mahonys’ both with fifteen, the O’Keeffes with ten, O’Cowhigs, Coffeys with seven, the O’Sullivans with six, and the McAuliffes with  four. Several other native Irish built castles throughout the county.

The castles and land ownership by the Irish Clans was ephemeral with the exception of a few. The theory of a solid Irish party fighting against a solid English party was never true at any time in Ireland. It was least of all true during the Munster and Ulster rebellions, even what was professedly a war of religion during the 16th century. The country was divided by its people as well as by difference in status. By the end of the Renaissance period England had become the dominant ruling country in the world.

For the native Irish, the Renaissance period, was a disaster for the landowners.  After confiscation of lands they were forced to transplant to Connacht or to Continental Europe. By 1665 Catholics held only one fifth of the land, most of this in Connacht. The new landlord was Protestant and English and invariably lived in London. With prohibitions on Catholic ownership of land during the 1700s’ only 5 percent of the land was in Catholic hands by 1778.

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