Four Courts Press 
New Catalogue
September 2005
80/65/$80 hbk

Ireland under the Normans


'Goddard Henry Orpen's four-volume study Ireland under the Normans offers so many insights into the Weltanschauung of its author and his class that it is rewarding of study for this purpose alone. But it would be a dreadful shame if sight was lost of the fact that his work is a work of quite the most stupendous scholarship. Every monograph which has since appeared on this era of Irish history has paraphrased him, adjusted some of the minutiae of his account, added some details where a new source has been unearthed, or sought to tell the same story in a different tone. His work has not been surpassed, and it cannot be supersceded, because it is the fons et origo of the professional historiography of Anglo-Norman Ireland' Dr Seán Duffy, Trinity College Dublin.

Orpen's magnum opus was originally published in two volumes in 1911, and a further two in 1920 - a total of some 1500 pages. Clarendon Press subsequently reissued the four volumes in 1968. It remains unsurpassed to this day. This new Four Courts Press edition, which is printed in one volume, incorporates the original pagination so that readers can refer to the earlier edition with ease.

The book itself deals with events in Ireland from the Cambro-Norman invasion of 1169 to the portentous murder of the earl of Ulster in 1333 as the history of a number of regions, rather than focusing exclusively on the concerns of the English king's administration, but his example has never hitherto been followed in relation to the Anglo-Irish colony. Although the project had its detractors (most notably Eoin MacNeill, who held the Chair of medieval history in UCD in 1909), it remains the definitive work on the period.

G.H. Orpen was an accomplished historian of medieval Ireland. He was editor of The song of Dermot and the Earl: an Old French poem from the Carew manuscript no. 596 in the archiepiscopal library at Lambeth Palace (Clarendon Press 1892). He died in 1933.

640pp September 2005