Preparatory Material for the 'History of Ireland' by Frederick Engels

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History of Ireland Engels 1870

Preparatory Material for the “History of Ireland”

First Published: in German in Marx-Engels Archives Vol. X, Russ. ed., Moscow, 1948;
Source: Marx and Engels on the Irish Question, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1974;
Transcribed by: Andy Blunden for the Marxists Internet Archive.

The preparatory material for Engels’s uncompleted History of Ireland is vast. Passages copied from various sources fill the better part of 15 large exercise-books. In addition, there are numerous notes and fragments on separate pages and a large number of newspaper cuttings. The material is extremely varied, including analyses of sources (ancient laws, medieval chronicles, legal and historical treatises of the 16th and 17th centuries, travel notes, etc.), passages from books, notably, those relating to Irish history from ancient times to the 1860s, and jottings of Engels’s own thoughts. Some of the notes represent Engels’s own synthesis of data drawn from several sources. Engels generally made remarks, sometimes sharply critical ones, on the excerpts taken from the works of various authors.

Only a small part of Engels’s manuscript has been published to date (in Russian, in the edition: Marx-Engels Archives, Vol. X, Moscow, 1948). The materials chosen for this volume show Engels’s own creative contribution to the study of Irish history. They include the plan for his book, containing also in general outline his own division into periods of Irish history, the most complete and significant fragments, a chronological review of events from ancient times to the mid-17th century and the work “Varia on the History of the Irish Confiscations.”

Draft Plan

1. Natural conditions
2. Ancient Ireland
3. English conquests

1) First invasion
2) Pale and Irishry
3) Subjugation and expropriation. 152...-1691

4. English rule

1) Penal Laws.[217] 1691-1780
2) Rebellion and Union. 1780-1801
3) Ireland in the United Kingdom
a) The period of the small peasants. 1801-1846
b) The period of extermination. 1846-1870


<"n217">217 Penal Code or penal laws — a set of laws passed by the English for Ireland at the end of the 17th and in the first half of the 18th centuries on the pretext of struggle against Catholic conspiracies. These laws deprived the indigenous Irish, the majority of whom were Catholics, of all civil and political rights. They limited the right of Catholics to inheritance, to the acquisition and alienation of property, and introduced the practice of confiscating property for petty offences. The Penal Code was used as an instrument for the expropriation of the Irish who still owned land. It established unfavourable lease terms for Catholic peasants, promoting their dependence on the English landlords. The ban on Catholic schools, the stern punishment meted out to Catholic priests, and other measures were intended to stamp out Irish national traditions. The penal laws were abrogated, and then only in part, at the end of the 18th century under the influence of the growing national liberation struggle in Ireland.