The Celtic States, 16th–18th c. &
the Re-emergence of the “Celts”
Celtic 132 – Celtic Civilization II
The Celtic States 16-18 c.
& the Re-emergence of the “Celts”
I The Celtic States in Early Modern Europe
A. Ireland
B. Wales
C. Brittany
D. Scotland
II Reinventing the Celts
A. The term “Celtic”
B. Edward Lhuyd
C. James Macpherson’s Ossian
D. Linguistics & “Celtic Studies”
I Early Modern Celtic States
• Celtic kingdoms fell 1 by 1
in the Middle Ages
• Conquered by their powerful
neighbours, England &
• Led to wide-spread
destruction in Celticspeaking societies, pushing
the languages to edge of
• The 1st Celtic country to be
taken over (Cornwall) was
the first to lose its language
(Cornish), in late 18th c.
I Early Modern Celtic States cont’d
• Parallels between England & Rome
– Assimilated existing nobility who were willing
– Eliminated the rest
– incorporated natives into their armies
– Also great social & economic changes of the
Industrial Revolution
– Mass migration of the Celtic peoples
– Exile & decline coincided with an awakening to the
Celtic past
A. Ireland
• Viking invasions 9-10 c. did
not alter Irish society
• They were assimilated
• Next invasion, AngloNormans in 12th c.
• Est’d a foothold for English
• Were themselves largely
• (Statutes of Kilkenny – 1367)
• Turning point in 16th c.
• Henry VIII & Elizabeth I,
enforced Royal authority in
• Conflict heightened by
• Catholic Ireland dominated by
Protestant England
A. Ireland cont’d
• A number of unsuccessful rebellions
• Red Hugh O’Neill 1607 (Flight of the Earls)
• His Lands in Ulster confiscated & settled
with Protestant English & Scots
• Dispossession of Catholic (mainly Irishspeaking) landowners
• 1641 rising of dispossessed Catholic Irish
against Protestants
• Counter-campaign of Cromwell
A. Ireland cont’d
• Modern pattern of CelticCatholic & Prot.-British set
by deposed Catholic James
II seige of Londonderry and
King William II’s victory over
him on the Boyne in 1690
• Further Dispossession &
penal laws against Catholics,
led to demise in Irishspeaking ruling class
• End of traditional Irish social
order (end of Bardic poetry
period and Classical Gaelic)
• After another uprising in
1798, forced to join with
Britain in 1801
B. Wales
• Norman invasion 11th c.
• Owain Glyn Dŵr, 10 yr.
revolt, suppressed in 1410
• 1485 Anglo-Welsh Henry
Tudor became King Henry
• Under the Tudors, Wales
united with England ca.
• Abolition of Welsh law 16th c.
• Native music traditions
declined with spread of
Methodism from 1660 on.
• English lang. gradually
displaced Welsh in east,
Welsh persisted in west
C. Brittany
• Clovis, King of the
Franks, defeated the
petty kingdoms of
Brittany in 5th/6th c.
• By 9th c. one of several
largely independent
principalities in France
• Lost independence in
1488, union with France
D. Scotland
• Clans of Highland & Islands
largely independent for
1,000 years
• Viking influences (but were
• Distinct from Lowlanders in
way of life and language
• Scottish kings tried to
control them
• Last “Scottish” kings were
the Stuarts (James VI
Scotland became James I
England 1603)
D. Scotland cont’d
• Catholic James II (VII of Scotland)
deposed in England in 1688
• Many Scots remained loyal Jacobites
• Union of Parliaments in 1707
• Jacobite Rebellions, especially
• Led to military occupation of the
• Smashing of clan power
• Banning of traditional way of life
• Clan chiefs dispossessed or
• Collapse of old Highland/Gaelic
social order
• Many Highlanders drafted into
British army & sent abroad
II Reinventing the “Celts”
A. The term “Celtic”
• In the early modern period, no sense of
inter-relatedness between the Celtic
• Term “Celtic” a word from history
• Publication of Caesar’s Gallic War brought
awareness of the term
• Modern sense of “Celtic”, i.e. referring to 6
Celtic languages and their peoples is from
the 18th c.
B. Edward Lhuyd
• Term was used by a
number of authors, but
Edward Lhuyd was one
of the first to show a
connection between the
native languages of
Britain, Ireland, and
• Visited every Celtic
country (but Isle of Man),
collecting linguistic data
• 1707 Archaeologia
Brittanica demonstrated
the relationship of the
Celtic languages and
used the term “Celtic” to
refer to them collectively
C. James Macpherson
• A great fashion for
things “Celtic,” spurred
on by the publications
• Interest in “Druids,”
Stonehenge, etc.
• James Macpherson
published Fragments of
Ancient Poetry
Collected in the
Highlands of Scotland,
and Translated from
the Gaelic or Erse
Language, in 1760
C. James Macpherson cont’d
• Also pub’d 2 epic poems
“Fingal” (1761) &
“Temora” (1763)
• And The Poems of
Ossian (1765)
• Ascribed to Ossian son
of Fingal (Finn)
• Claimed to be based on
2 MSS from 5th or 6th c.
• Received much acclaim
throughout Europe,
incredibly popular, a
favourite of Napoleon
C. James Macpherson cont’d
• Found to be forgeries – “Ossianic
• Thought now that Macpherson composed
them himself, but based on his knowledge
of Gaelic oral tradition
• He could never produce the “original”
Gaelic MSS
• It sparked an even greater interest in
D. Linguistics & “Celtic Studies”
• Growth in linguistic
interest in 18th & 19th c.
• Relationship between
languages, source of
much scholarly interest
• German-speaking
linguists important in
development of Celtic
• Johann Kaspar Zeuss’s
Grammatica Celtica
(1853) real start of Celtic
• Proved definitively the
relationship between the
Celtic languages and
their place in the IndoEuropean family
D. Linguistics & “Celtic Studies” cont’d
• Celtic Studies was at first a field
of linguistics, then became
more inter-disciplinary (e.g.
literature, mythology, folklore,
history, etc.)
• Eventually led to establishment
of Celtic programs
• Among the earliest were
programs in Germany, England
(Oxford U.), Ireland, Scotland
(Edinburgh U.), Canada
(St.FX), & the USA (Harvard U.)

The Celtic States, 16th – 19th c. & The Emergence of