Peter Berresford Ellis
Hamish Hamilton 1975
Blackstaff Press 1988
The Cromwellian plantation of Ireland is an event that still resonates to this day, and in Beresford Ellis it has a worthy chronicler. His highly readable account of the period shows a mastery of original sources, both native and settler.
Beresford Ellis draws on English political pamphlets of the 1640s to argue that the Levellers opposed the invasion. Yet it was in many cases the most radical parliamentarians who ended up in Ireland, perhaps as part of a deliberate policy to keep them from making trouble in England. Some such as Edmund Ludlow, would themselves become exiles following the restoration of Charles II.
He uses Gaelic poetry and continental Catholic records to document the experience of the Irish in the face of conquest and expropriation. For much of the native elite, this meant continental exile, although guerrilla resistance was carried on by the original Tories, whose name would later become an abusive epithet in English party politics. For some it meant being sold into slavery in Barbados, an episode which illustrates the wider economic significance of the plantation.
The figure of William Petty, the economist who surveyed Ireland for the colonizers, perhaps symbolizes this early episode of liberal imperialism.
Given this wealth of material, Scholarly readers will regret Berresford Ellis's decision not to include footnotes because "I do not wish to to claim an academic status for this work to which I feel that it is not entitled', a judgement that belies the book's real value.
Nevertheless, the book includes a full bibliography and the author's decision perhaps reflects the fact that Hell or Connaught is a highly accessible work of popular history.