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Focusing mainly on the Irish upper-class, their cultural exchange with England, and their struggle for power during a time of great change, Nobility and Newcomers underscores why Irish cultural identity is challenging to define: the early-modern Irish were a profoundly international people, with roots in England, Scotland, Wales, and cities across the European continent.

Despite being united under the British crown, many Irish felt separate from their English neighbors, and with good reason: Three culturally distinct groups (native islanders, descendants of twelfth-century Anglo-Norman conquests, and new settlers) found themselves jockeying for power, cultural status, land ownership, and approval from the British crown.

Many Old English and Gaelic families declined or died out, while others found ways to survive and even thrive during a time of political upheaval. Writers of the period such as William Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, and John Milton addressed the turmoil on the island; lesser-known Irish writers penned poetry and treatises about affairs of state and the rapidly changing nobility.

Along with scuffles and outright battles came more peaceful interactions, including intermarriages between the social groups and a merging of culture that shifted the language and influenced art, architecture, and letters.

Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland examines the cultural history of early-modern Ireland’s social groups, and sheds light on the process of change that led to an intermingling of cultures and gave rise to the Ireland still familiar today.

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