In this article, we are going to take a look at the breakdown of Strand Two - The History of Ireland. Which is part of your three-year junior cycle history course. The course also includes:

  1. Strand One - The Nature of History.
  2. Strand Three - The History of Europe and The Wider World
  3. Multiple Assessments - All assessments for junior cycle history are graded at a common level. There are a total of four assessments (2 classroom-based assessments, 1 assessment task and of course 1 state exam.)

"It's not about the past; it's about knowing your history so that you can fight in the present. Otherwise, you don't know who the real enemy is, what the real issue is, because it had been covered by many layers of bad information, of lies, and manipulation."

- Raoul Peck

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The History of Ireland - Junior Cycle History Strand 2

Many topics are covered in the history of Ireland, some of the topics you will encounter include:

  1. Ireland in the 1960s
  2. Christianity in Ireland
  3. Nationalism & Unionism in Ireland (1911 - 1923)
  4. Pre 20th Century Revolutions - Irish Rebellions
  5. Settlement & Plantations - Influence on Identity in Ireland
  6. The Great Famine - Causes Courses and Consequences
  7. The Parliamentary Tradition
  8. The Troubles in Northern Ireland
  9. Women in 20th Century Ireland
  10. World War I & II - Causes, Courses and Long-Term Impact on the Irish People

We won't have time to look at each of these topics in-depth in this article, however, we will look at a couple. Strand two is all about the exploration of key personalities, issues and events in Irish history, including local history.

Junior Cycle History - Christianity in Ireland

Christianity (Irish: Críostaíocht) is and has been the largest religion in Ireland since the 5th century. Early Christian Ireland is the period from about 400 AD to 1000 AD. Christianity first came to Ireland in the fifth century, around 431 AD. Most people in Ireland at that time believed in pagan gods. Only a few pieces of evidence survive from this period so it is not clear who the first Christians in Ireland were. Some historians believe that the first Christians in Ireland were slaves captured in England and taken to Ireland.

Most famously it is believed that Saint Patrick, converted the Irish tribes to Christianity in quick order, producing a great number of saints in the Early Middle Ages, and a faith interwoven with Irish identity for centuries since. From about 500 AD, monasteries were built in Ireland.

The first monasteries were usually built in isolated places like Glendalough in Co. Wicklow or on islands such as Skellig Michael off the coast of Co. Kerry.   Some monasteries were also built near the forts of important kings like the monastery of Clonard in Co. Meath. The monks chose these isolated places because they allowed them to pray and work without distraction. In these early monasteries, monks lived in small bedrooms called cells.

As well as praying and fasting, some monks spent their lives making beautiful copies of the Bible. The Book of Kells, written in the ninth century, about 800 AD, is a famous example of this. It was named after a town called Kells in Co. Meath where it was once kept. This book can now be seen in Trinity College, Dublin.

When the Norman arrived in Ireland and many new names were introduced. For example FitzGerald, FitzMaurice, Power and Prendergast. The Normans were Christians and built many cathedrals. The cathedrals were usually built in places where there was already a monastery. However, the Normans also established their own new monasteries. These were much larger than the earlier Irish monasteries. Many Normans began to speak Irish, to marry Irish people, and to take on Irish customs.

In 1366, Normans in Ireland were forbidden by their king in England to speak in Irish, to dress like the Irish or to adopt Irish customs. These laws became known as the Statutes of Kilkenny, however, they failed to stop Normans from adopting Irish traditions or from marrying into Irish families.

Junior Cycle History -The Great Famine  (An Gorta Mór)

Ireland had its worst famine in 1845 when a famine called the Great Famine occurred. It lasted until about 1850 but the worst years were between 1845 and 1849. It is estimated that almost one million people died and another million Irish people emigrated by the end of the famine. Ireland’s population was over 8 million in 1841 but by 1851 it was reduced to about 6 .5 million.

One of the causes of the Great Irish Famine was a disease called blight which destroyed the potato crop. The poorest groups suffered most during the famine because they had no other food to eat except the potato.

When the blight destroyed the potato crops every year from 1845, the people faced starvation and death. They grew potatoes on small plots of ground and had no money to buy any other foods. In 1846, the second crop of potatoes failed in July and August. People who had managed to survive the first crop failure of 1845 were now in terrible conditions.

By February 1847, there were huge snowdrifts and the poor had no warm clothes to work outdoors in cold and wet weather. When the father of a family became sick or died after working on the public works, the women or children in the family tried to take over the work but it was very hard and involved carrying heavy loads or digging. This type of work was not useful in helping the people who were starving.

Ireland was under English rule at the time of the famine and the parliament was in London. In the summer of 1847, the government set up some soup kitchens to give the starving people hot soup. A group called the Society of Friend, or the Quakers did a lot of work to feed the poor. They bought huge boilers in which to cook the soup. By August 1847, about 3 million people were being fed each day in total. However, in the Autumn of 1847, the government shut down the soup kitchens and told poor people that they could go to the workhouses for help.

Workhouses were places where the very poor, known as paupers, could go to live. Once they entered the workhouse, people had to wear a uniform and were given a very basic diet. Men, women, girls and boys were all forced to stay in different parts of the building. People were often sick when they entered the workhouse and this meant that many inmates died of diseases, which spread quickly in the workhouses. The main diseases were typhus, cholera and dysentery. Huge numbers of people were also evicted from their homes by their landlords during the famine and a large number of Irish people emigrated to countries such as England, America, Canada and Australia because of the famine. From 1845 to 1850, about one and a half million people left Ireland.

1845 Ireland
in 1845 Ireland had unusually cool moist weather, which allowed the potato blight to thriving. Much of that year’s potato crop rotted in the fields. That partial crop failure was followed by more-devastating failures in 1846–49 - Image by Waldrebell via Pixabay

Results of the Great Famine:

So what are some of the results from this famine which engulfed Ireland for 4 years, do you love was just some of the information of the devastation caused:
  • It has been estimated that about a million people died during the worst famine years between 1845 and 1849.
  • About a million people emigrated to America, Canada, Australia or Britain.
  • Many who survived suffered from malnutrition.
  • Hundreds of thousands of tenant farmers and labourers unable to pay their rent were evicted by landlords unable to support them.

RTÉ has documentaries and articles online and on the player which corresponds with the Junior Cycle and Leaving Cert History Strands, some of the documentaries look at the Great Irish Famine in detail, they investigate its causes, the struggles at the time and the effect it had on future generations.

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Maureen

Hey, I'm Maur/Mo, I'm a writer from Ireland. I've written a novel and a lot of poetry and fiction. Currently, I work as a content writer at superprof