Edmund Curtis

1881-1943 [occas. Gl. as Éamon Cuirtéis]; b. Lancashire of Irish parents; worked in rubber factory at fifteen; published verses in local paper; interested readers helped him finish his education, taking him to Oxford; Prof. of Modern History, TCD, 1914; he was married to Margaret Barrington, whom Liam O’Flaherty married in 1926, and later divorce; appt. Lecky Professor at TCD, 1939; issued Roger of Sicily and the Normans in Lower Italy 1016-1154 (1912); A History of Medieval Ireland (1923); Richard II in Ireland 1394-5 (1927) and A History of Ireland (1936) - called the ‘standard work’ up to 1987 when so described in J. C. Beckett’s The Making of Modern Ireland (rev. edn.); contrib. a historical entry on Ireland to Encyc. Britannica (1949 Edn.); d. Dublin. DIW DIL OCIL

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Works 6;
  • Roger of Sicily and the Normans in Lower Italy, 1016-1154 (NY: G. P. Putnam's Sons 1912), 592pp. [available at Internet Archive - online].
  • History of Medieval Ireland 1110-1513 (Dublin: Maunsel 1923); Do. [another edn. as ] A History of Medieval Ireland from 1110 to 1513 (London: Macmillan & Co. 1923), vi, [2], 436pp., ill. [ 3 fold. maps; 22 cm.].
  • Richard II in Ireland, 1394-5, and Submissions of the Irish Chiefs (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1927), vii, 248pp., ill. [a facsimile and map; 8º].
  • A History of Ireland, with five maps (London: Methuen & Co. 1936), xi, 399pp. [see editions].
  • History of Medieval Ireland 1086-1513 [Enl. edn.] (London: Methuen & Co. 1938), xxxv, 433pp., 8º. [another edn., 1978, 433pp.]; Do. [trans. as] Stair na hÉireann sa Mheánois, 1086-1513 [by] Tomás de Bhal[draithe] do chuir Gaeilge ai (Baile Átha Cliath [1956], xxxi, 506pp., 8°; and Do., (NY: Barnes & Noble [1968]), xxxv, 433pp., ill. [geneal. tables, maps.; 23 cm.].
Chapters [contrib.]
  • ‘The Acts of the Drogheda Parliament, 1494-5, or “Poyning’s Laws”’, in Henry VII’s Relations with Scotland and Ireland, 1485-1498 [... &c.], by Hon. Agnes E. Conway [afterwards Horsfield] (Cambridge UP 1932), 259pp. [chap.; q.pp.].
Editorial works
  • ‘The Spoken Languages of Ireland’, in Studies, Vol. 8 (1919). cp.249.
  • ed., Cuisle na hÉigse [Pulse of the Bards]: cnuasacht dán do ceapadh lenár linn féin, Éamon Cuirtéis do chruinnigh [1st edn.; Foilseacháin NáisiúntaTeoranta] (Dublin: Martin Lester 1920), 62pp. [soft-cover; 18x12 cm.; incls. poetry of Séamus Ó hAodha, et al.].
  • [ed.,] Unpublished Letters from Richard II in Ireland, 1394-95 [Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 37, Sect. C, No. 14] (Dublin 1927), ill. [maps].
  • ed., Calendar of Ormond Deeds, 6 vols. [1172-1603] (Irish Manuscript Commission 1932-46) [see details].
  • [ed.,] ‘Unpublished Letters of T. Crofton Croker,’ Irish Book Lover, 28 (1941) [q.pp.].
  • ed., with R. B. McDowell, Irish Historical Documents, 1172-1922 (London: Methuen 1943), 331pp. [see contents].
Sundry papers
  • The Viceroyalty of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, in Ireland, 1361-1367. Read 24th April, 1917. Dublin: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1917.
  • Murchertach O’Brien, High King of Ireland, and his norman son-in-law, Arnulf de Montgomery, circa 1100. Read 24th May, 1921; Dublin: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland [1921].
  • Notes on Episcopal succession in Ireland under Richard II. Read 26th October, 1926. Dublin: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland [1926].
  • Unpublished letters from Richard II in Ireland, 1394-5. Read 25 April, 1927. Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1927.
  • The survey of Offaly in 1550, made by Walter Cowley; edited with introduction and map by Edmund Curtis [c.1929].
  • Sheriffs’ accounts of the honor of Dungarvan, of Tweskard in Ulster, and of County Waterford, 1261-63. Read 13 May 1929. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Vol. 39, Sect. C, No. 1. Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1929, pp.1-17.
  • Two unpublished charters of John de Courcy, Princeps Ulidiae, by E[Reprinted from Proceedings of the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society, Session 1928-1929], 48pp.;Court book of Esker and Crumlin, 1592-1600: extracts [read 5 March,1929] (continued). Dublin: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1929 (Dublin, 1929-30).
  • ed., The “Bonnaght” of Ulster: a treaty between Richard, Duke of York, Earl of Ulster, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Henry, son of Eoghan O’Neill, captain of his nation [1449]. Dublin: Hodges & Figgis 1931, in Hermathena, Vol. XXI (Dublin 1931), pp.87-105.
  • Richard Duke of York, as Viceroy of Ireland, 1447-1460: with unpublished materials for his relations with native chiefs. Read 27th September, 1932. Dublin: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1932.
  • Janico Dartas, Richard the Secon’s “Gascon Squire”: his career in Ireland, 1394-1426. Read 12th December, 1933. Dublin: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1933.
  • Sheriff’s accounts for county Tipperary, 1275-6, compiled by Edmund Curtis. Dublin: Hodges Figgis & Co. 1934.
  • The pardon of H. Blake of Galway in 1395. Galway, 1935.
  • The O’Maolconaire Family: unpublished letters from Sir Edward Conry, Bart. to H. F. Hore, Esq., 1864, ed. by Prof. Edmund Curtis. Galway: Archaeological and Historical Society [1935].
  • The Barons of Norragh, Co. Kildare. Read 29th January, 1935. Dublin: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1935.
  • Original documents relating to Aughrim, Burrishoole, and Aran, by Prof. Edmund Curtis. Galway: Archaeological and Historical Society 1935
  • Some medieval seals out of the Ormond archives. Read 28th January, 1936. Dublin: Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland 1936.
  • Rental of the manor of Lisronagh, 1333: and notes on "Betagh" tenure in medieval Ireland. Dublin: Hodges, Figgis, & Co. 1936
  • The MacQuillan or Mandeville Lords of the route. Read 8 Nov., 1937. Dublin: Hodges, Figgis 1937.
  • Album of newspaper cuttings, 1910-1940, prepared by E. Curtis] [S.l., s.d.; held at Trinity College Dublin].
  • An album of newspaper cuttings dealing chiefly with Irish affairs, 1923-29, prepared by E. Curtis] [Dublin, etc., 1923-29].

See also Unpublished Irish poems, ed. by Osborn Bergin. Dublin, 1918-1926.

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Bibliographical details

A History of medieval Ireland from 1086 to 1513, by Edmund Curtis. [Routledge reprints] (Abingdon, England: Routledge 2013), xxxv, 433pp., ill. [genealogical tables, maps ; 22 cm.]

First published in 1923 by Macmillan, second edition published 1938 by Methuen. Summary: First published in 1923, this formative history of Ireland is an extensive study of the period from 1086 - 1513. Beginning with the O’Brien High Kinship, Edmund Curtis takes us through the Anglo-Norman conquest and its sequel, ending with the death of Gerald ‘the Great Earl’ of Kildare in 1513, a date when the second English conquest of Ireland (the ‘Tudor Reconquest’) became imminent. This is a reissue of a definitive landmark study of Irish history by one of greatest Irish historians of the twentieth century.

Contents: 1. The O’Brien High Kingship, 1014-1119 2. Turloch O’Connor and the Prelude to the Norman Invasion 3. The Norman Invasion, 1166-1172 4. The Conquest Continues, 1172-1177 5. John ’Dominus Hibernae’, 1177-1199 6. King John and Ireland, 1199-1216 7. The Expansion of the Colony, 1216-1245 8. The First Irish Resurgence, 1245-1272 9. The English Lordship at its Height, 1272-1310 10. Edward II and Edward Bruce, 1307-1327 11. The Rebellious Anglo-Irish, 1327-1360 12. The Statutes of King Kenny and the Gaelic Revival 13. The Failure of the ’First Conquest’, 1366-1399 14. Ireland, Feudal and Gaelic, 1399-1477 15. Aristocratic and Home Rule, 1449-1477 16. The Great Earl of Kildare, 1477-1513 17. Conclusion: Ireland in 1170 and in 1500.
—See COPAC notice.

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A History of Ireland, with five maps (London: Methuen & Co. 1936), xi, 399pp.
—Second edition (London: Methuen 1936, xi, 399p., 8º [Bibliography: pp.391-92]. —Third edition [revised & enlarged] (London: Methuen & Co. [1937]), xi, [1], 434 p.; (fold.) plate: maps; 22.3 cm. [Printed in Norwich by Jarrold and Sons Ltd.]. —Fourth edition [rev.] (London: Methuen & Co. [1942]), xi, 434, [1]p.: maps (1 fold., 22 cm. ["First published June 4th 1936 ... Fourth edition".]. —Fifth edition (London: Methuen [1945]), xi, 434pp. ["Recommended for further reading", pp.413-15]; Do., [reiss.] (London: Methuen & Co. 1950), pp. xi. 434, 8º. —Sixth edition [rev.] (London: Methuen & Co. 1952) - [With a map.] pp. xi. 434, 8º.

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Irish Historical Documents, 1172-1922, ed. Edmund Curtis & R. B. McDowell [Methuen 1943], and Do. [rep. edn.] [Routledge revivals.] (London : Methuen 2012), 331pp. [23 cm.]

Sections: 1. From the Norman Conquest to the Tudor Period; 2. The Tudor Period; 3. The Seventeenth Century; 4. The Eighteenth Century; 5. The Nineteenth Century, and After.

Documents incl. Bull Laudabilit[er] [17]; grants; Magna Carta Hib.; Laws of England to be Observed, 1246; remonstrance of Irish Princes to Pope John XXII, 1314; Irish admitted to English law, 1321; treaties of James, Earl of Ormond, and the O’Knnedys; Statutes of Kilkenny, 1366; Act of Absentees, 1368; An Irish parliament, 1380; Declaration of Independence of Irish Parliament, 1460; Poyning’s Law; Hugh O’Neill’s war aims, 1599; Act of Supremacy, uniformity, 1560; Plantation documents; Confederation of Kilkenny; civil articles of Limerick, 1691; addresses of the house of commons on Molyneux’s book and the Irish woollen trade, 1698 [derogating his ‘dangerous position’]; catholic relief acts, 1778, 1782, 1793; insurrection act, 1796; Act of Union, 1800; Fox on the Irish Question, 1782; Ulster vols. resolution, 1782; United Irishmen’s plan; Catholic relief bill, 1829; Land League foundation, Mayo 1879; found. nat. Land League, 1879; land act of 1881; Wyndham’s act, 1903; various speeches on Home Rule; Unionist speeches in Ulster; Thomas Meagher, on physical force, 28 July, 1846; Douglas Hyde, on the Necessity, &c., 1892; Resolutions at 28 Nov. 1905 first annual meeting of Sinn Féin; Griffith’s speech; 1916 proclamation; Irish declaration of Independence, 1919; democratic programme, 1919; president’s statement to Dáil, 1919; 1921 Treaty articles; David Lloyd George, Eamon de Valera, and Arthur Griffith in the treaty, 1921-22.

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A Calendar of Ormond Deeds, 1172-1603, edited by Edmund Curtis (Dublin : Stationery Office 1934-1943; rep. IUP 1970).

  • Volume 1 - 1172-1350 (1932)
  • Volume 2 - 1350-1413 (1934)
  • Volume 3 - 1413-1509 (1935)
  • Volume 4 - 1509-1547 (1937)
  • Volume 5 - 1547-1584 (1937)
  • Volume 6 - 1584-1603 (1943)
  • See also Edmund Curtis, A. J. Otway-Ruthven and James Lydon, Government, War and Society in Medieval Ireland, ed. Peter Crooks (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2008), 407pp. [21 essays by holders of Lecky chair, TCD] Contents: Peter Crooks, Introduction: The Lecky professors; Edmund Curtis, Prologue: Irish history and its popular versions. Pt. 1 - Government: James Lydon, Ireland and the English crown, 1171-1541; A.J. Otway-Ruthven, The chief governors of medieval Ireland; James Lydon, William of Windsor and the Irish parliament; A. J. Otway-Ruthven, The medieval Irish chancery; A.J. Otway-Ruthven, Anglo-Irish shire government in the thirteenth century; A.J. Otway-Ruthven, The native Irish and English law in medieval Ireland. Pt. 2 - War: A. J. Otway-Ruthven, Knight service in Ireland; A. J. Otway-Ruthven, Royal service in Ireland; James Lydon, The hobelar: an Irish contribution to medieval warfare; James Lydon, An Irish army in Scotland, 1296; James Lydon, Irish levies in the Scottish wars, 1296-1302; James Lydon, Edward I, Ireland and the war in Scotland, 1303-1304; James Lydon, Richard II’s expeditions to Ireland; Edmund Curtis, Richard, duke of York, as viceroy of Ireland, 1447-1460: with unpublished materials for his relations with native chiefs. Pt. Part 3 - Society: A. J. Otway-Ruthven, The character of Norman settlement in Ireland; A. J. Otway-Ruthven; The organization of Anglo-Irish agriculture in the middle ages; Edmund Curtis, The English and Ostmen in Ireland; Edmund Curtis, The clan system among the English settlers in Ireland; Edmund Curtis, The spoken languages of medieval Ireland; James Lydon, The problem of the frontier in medieval Ireland; James Lydon, The middle nation. Peter Crooks, Further reading - Government, war and society in English Ireland, 1171-1541: a guide to recent work.

    See also Iasgaireacht Shéamuis Bhig / le Séamus Ua Creag. [Derry, 1904?] p. : ill. ; 19 cm. Originally published, Dublin: Sealy, Bryers and Walker, 1904. Copy inscribed by J[ames] P[atrick] Craig and Edmund Curtis [owner] - held in

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    Patrick Henchy, The National Library of Ireland, 1941-1976: A Look Back: A Paper read to the National Library of Ireland Society (Friends of the NLI 1986) - re Ormond Deeds; Edmund Curtis had been calendaring the medieval documents; wrote to Dr Best informing him tha Lord Ossory (later Marquess of Ormonde) wd be leaving Kilkenny Castle for good and selling the effects; ‘this makes me wonder what will happen to the manuscript [...] If Lord Ossory conveys the whole mass of his documents from 1185 onwards to English it will certainly be an irreparable loss to Irish historical records [...] the great mass of our history in the late 17 th century. I have reason to believe that most of this has not been calendared or published. [...] I therefore wish to urge that if possible this great collection should be acquired for the nation. Yours sincerely, Edmund Curtis. (p.11.)

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    A History of Ireland (1936): ‘The Gaels were a military and oppressive aristocracy ... about 100 a.d. there was a great revolt of pre-Celtic subjects under Cairbre Cinn Cait, ‘the Cat-Head’. This was crushed by a Gaelic prince called Tuathal, and there followed ... the formation of a united kingdom of Meath and Connacht, which provided Ireland for centuries with a central High kingship. The Firbolgs never revolted again ... , Tuathal’s capital was Maeve’s fortress of Rath Croghan in Roscommon. East of the Shannon he built a second capital on the hill of Uisneach near Mullingar. A hundred years after him, about a.d. 200, his descendant Conn Cédcathach, formed a cnetral monarcy of which the eastern part was called Mídhe [Middle Kingdom]. He had a rival in the sould in Egohan Mór also called Mogh Nudat (devotee of the God Nuada) who created the kingdom of Munster, but the two at last came to twerms, and divided their spheres of influence north and south of a line from Dublin to Galway along a ridge of sandhills called Escir Riada. Henceforth Mogh’s Half and Conn’s Half were recognised divisions of our island.’ Curtis goes on to discuss in the same style the Dál Cuinn, lasting till 1022, which gave ‘Ireland a cnetre of national unity’. Also Cormac son of Art son of Conn [Mac Airt]; ‘In Gaelic tradition he is the first founder, legislator, and nation-maker, who made Tara’s ancient and sacred hill the capital of Ireland ... Feis ... Tailten ... five great roads ... formation of standing warrior force, the Fianna, which was finally too strong for the Ard Rí and was crushed at the battle of Gavra by Cairbre, Cormac’s grandson’. The ensuing section [p.5] deals with the High Kingship, 380-1022, when Brian Boru of the Dál Cais [Dalcassians] took control against the Vikings. Niall of the Nine Hostages rules at Tara, 380-405 a.d., ‘splendid hero of the Gaelic blood, tall, fair-haired, and blue-eyed, a great and noble minded warrio, “kind in hall and fierce in fray”. The sons of Niall conquer Ulster, establishing power at Aileach, and invade maritime lands of Scotland and Wales. &c (Univ. Paperbacks 1961, p.4ff.)

    Scottish success: ‘It was not until after 1660 that the Scottish element in Ulster became a pronounced success and it is the only case of a real, democratic, industrial and labouring colony established in Ireland. Ulster finally became a province almost entirely. Protestant as regards the landowners and mainly so as regards the population, and it is reckoned that in 1641 of the three and a half million acres in the Six Counties the Protestants owned three million and the Catholics the rest. But even this proportion was to be reduced after 1660, and after 1690 scarcely anything of the Gaelic and Catholic aristocracy remained.’ (Curtis, History of Ireland, p.232; quoted in Sean O’Faolain, The Irish, 1947, pp.84-85, with the comment, ‘Only one positive and creative thing came out of the last wreck of Gaeldom: Ulster as we know it.’)

    Politics: In illustrating the meaning of the term politics/political, Bernard Crick writes: ‘One can read how Henry VIII finally decided not to use (expensive) military force, but to try to govern by “sober ways, political drifts, and amiable persuasions”’ - quoting Curtis, A History of Ireland [6th edn.] London 1961, p.167; see Crick, In Defence of Politics [1962; rev. edn.] Harmonsworth: Penguin 1964, p.169.)

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    Robert Hogan, Dictionary of Irish Literature (Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1979), gives bio-details: b. Donegal, f. from Belfast; Oxon, 1900; History Prof., TCD, 1914; ‘His writing is ever in a terse, fluent style that has as its best a dramatic immediacy about it’; T. W. Moody wrote that ‘he had the merits of a pioneer’.

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    Standard Curtis: A History of Ireland (1936) is called the ‘standard work’ up to 1987 when so described in J. C. Beckett’s The Making of Modern Ireland (rev. edn.); Curtis described as a Gaelic nationalist by sympathy who made use of Irish language sources by Cleeve (Dictionary of Irish Writers, 1988).

    Real Dubs: Edmund Curtis wrote for the Dublin Historical Record, viz,. vol. IV, No. 3, March-May (1943), p.170 [sic], dealing with the injustice to the Norsemen by the Normans following treaties regarding their not being subject to the same political conditions as the Irish. (See George A Little, Dublin Before the Vikings, 1957, p.170.)

    Mockery of it: Roy Foster cites his ‘eloquent’ mockery of Pokorny’s theory of Eskimo settlements in Ireland: ‘’We must beat our harps into harpoons and our wolfdogs into walruses.’ (Irish Statesman, 7 Nov. 1925; Foster, Paddy and Mr Punch, 1993, p.316 [Notes]).

    Gift wrapped: A copy of Curtis’s History of Ireland bound in leather and with the national harp in gold on the front cover binding was given to Princess Grace by Eamon de Valera and is now held in the Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco).

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