The O'Donnell lords of Tír Conaill, 1537-1603 : a study of their efforts to maintain their local power in sixteenth-century Ireland

Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2016
Thesis identifier
  • T14358
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201081247
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • This study examines the reasons why the O’Donnell lords of Tír Conaill were never fully reconciled to the English crown between 1537 and 1603, with relations eventually deteriorating to the extent that Hugh Roe O’Donnell went into rebellion in the 1590s. Since the 1970s, a number of historians have explained Irish reaction to Tudor authority in terms of the increasing aggression of English policies as the sixteenth century progressed. This approach offers insight into certain English initiatives but Irishmen did not experience Tudor rule identically. Recognising this,recent historians have discussed the crown’s efforts to work with certain Irish elites to reform the island. To some extent, this was the O’Donnells’ experience of English rule. This being the case, this study discusses why reform never took root in Tír Conaill and why relations between the O’Donnells and the crown broke down. By considering English material, such as the State Papers, alongside Irish sources, like the Irish annals, this study offers a nuanced discussion of the local, national and supranational considerations which shaped the policy decisions of the Irishmen vis-à-vis the English crown. Overall, the evidence suggests that the O’Donnell lords were not reconciled to the crown because its support, promised on numerous occasions, was often lacking. The result was a break-down in trust between the two parties. Furthermore, although O’Donnell lords were willing to implement limited reform if this worked to their advantage, the English undermined their ability to exercise lordship in Tír Conaill by attempting to seize their local political and fiscal powers for the crown. Stressing the careful consideration that historians must pay to local Irish issues the conclusions suggest that, where Irishmen rejected English reform policies, this was principally due to the threat such changes posed to the local power and status of powerful Irish families.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Macinnes, Allan
  • Cathcart, Alison
Resource Type
Embargo Note
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