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Consumption and Culture in Sixteenth-Century Ireland

Consumption and Culture in Sixteenth-Century Ireland: Saffron, Stockings and Silk

Susan Flavin
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Consumption and Culture in Sixteenth-Century Ireland
    Book Description:

    This book, based on extensive original research, argues that everyday Irish consumption underwent major changes in the 16th century. The book considers the changing nature of imported goods in relation especially to two major activities of daily living: dress and diet. It integrates quantitative data on imports with qualitative sources, including wills, archaeological and pictorial evidence, and contemporary literature and legislation. It shows that changes in Irish consumption mirrored changes occurring in England and across Europe and that they were a function of broader developments in the Irish economy, including the increasing participation of Irish merchants in European markets. The book also discusses how consumption was related to wider political, economic and cultural developments in Ireland, showing how the acquisition and interpretation of material goods were key factors in the mediation of political and social boundaries in a semi-colonised and contested society. Susan Flavin completed her doctorate in early modern history at the University of Bristol.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-409-3
    Subjects: History, Economics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations and Measures
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Part I The Irish Import Trade, 1503–1601

    • Introduction: Subject and Sources
      (pp. 3-17)

      In the past three decades, there has been a proliferation in historical studies of consumption. These include explorations of changing attitudes towards acquisition and ownership as well as ways in which consumer goods were interpreted. This new work is rooted both in the use of previously neglected sources and in the development of a multidisciplinary approach to consumption studies. Together, these have transformed our knowledge of early modern society and culture.¹ Despite such historiographical developments, in Ireland, the history of consumption and, indeed, the study of material culture in general have been slow to excite the interest of historians. Until...

    • 1 The Expanding Trade
      (pp. 18-42)

      At the beginning of the sixteenth century, the composition of the Irish import trade was fairly unexciting. Imports remained largely unchanged from the fifteenth century and earlier, and consisted of a range of around 60 items, including rather prosaic foodstuffs such as peas and beans, a narrow range of spices and a minor selection of haberdashery and dyestuff, along with large quantities of plain English woollen cloth.¹ Over the course of the century, however, the nature of the trade underwent an immense transformation and, by the 1590s, almost 400 different commodities were imported from Bristol, suggesting significant developments in many...

    • 2 The Dynamics of the Trade
      (pp. 43-57)

      Very little is known about the conduct of Irish trade in the sixteenth century and pre-existing analyses are based primarily on the ‘particular’ accounts, which, while very useful in many respects, are quite limited in detail. The ‘particular’ accounts (to 1565) record the port of registration of a ship and whether the ship was entering or exiting the port, but they have little to say in terms of the performance of specific Irish ports or the activities of merchants. This chapter is based on the analysis of the ‘port books’ (1565 onwards), which include additional information including the exact port...

    • Part I – Summary
      (pp. 58-60)

      Although the evidence is patchy, and the picture far from clear, it is becoming apparent that this was by no means a static period in Irish social and economic development. Indeed it seems that in the sixteenth century, south-east Ireland witnessed significant changes in consumption, which mirrored, in many ways, the sorts of changes occurring in the Pale, in England and across Europe during the period. While not vast in terms of value, the progressively complex range of goods imported demonstrates that, whether or not Ireland was as ‘backward’ as many contemporaries felt, it was gaining access to the increasingly...

  7. Part II Dress

    • 3 Consuming Fashion
      (pp. 63-69)

      The history of clothing has seen a ‘recent explosion of methods and approaches’, and a growing interest in the consumption of fashion in English historiography has shed much light both on patterns of ownership and use of clothing and textiles in early modern England, and on the cultural significance of dress.¹ The division of labour amongst historians in the field of general consumption is not quite as pronounced in the area of clothing consumption.² While some studies do tend to focus on either the functional and economic importance of dress, or on its cultural meaning, new histories of dress are...

    • 4 From Head to Toe
      (pp. 70-95)

      According to Fynes Moryson, the ‘English-Irish for the most part have for many ages had the same attire and apparel with the mere Irish, namely the nourishing of long hair which hangs down to the shoulders … and this hair being exceedingly long, they have no use of cap or hat’.¹ Edmund Spenser noted that this glib hairstyle was ‘a long curled bush of hair, hanging down over the eye, and monstrously disguising them, which are both very bad and hurtful’.² He further complained that:

      besides their ‘savage brutishness and loathly filthyness … they [glibs] are fit masks as a...

    • 5 Wearing, Making and Embellishing
      (pp. 96-117)

      Notably absent amongst Irish imports are ready-made outerwear garments such as gowns, doublets, cloaks and breeches. Throughout the accounts examined, there are in fact only four occurrences of such items; in 1550, John Fleatt imported 100 petticoats; in 1575, a Kilkenny merchant, Martin Archer, imported 4 leather jerkins, and in the same year, George Purkell, a London merchant, imported 12 sack cloth and 12 canvas doublets.¹ It may be the case that these imported items were banned in this region, as they had been in Dublin in 1555 when the tailors, shoemakers and other tradesmen in the city felt so...

    • 6 Colour and Cleanliness
      (pp. 118-137)

      Comparing de Heere’s sixteenth-century illustrations of Irishwomen and Englishwomen, Dunlevy noted distinct differences in their styles of headwear, ruffs, sleeve shapes and also, significantly, in the colour of their clothing. The English, she remarked, were depicted in patterned fabrics with muted, dark tones in contrast with the brighter colours worn by the Irish.¹ This was a fact also acknowledged by contemporary literary commentators on Irish habits. Spenser remarked, for example, that Irishwomen ‘will devise some colour, for either of necessity, or of antiquity or of comeliness’.² Likewise, Gernon noted that the mantles worn by Irishwomen were ‘commonly of a browne...

    • Part II – Summary
      (pp. 138-140)

      In the sixteenth century, south-east Ireland and its extensive hinterland witnessed significant changes in the consumption of dress, which in many important ways mirrored the sorts of changes occurring in England and across Europe during the period. The foregoing chapters have considered the pace and extent of such changes, the factors that influenced the growing consumption of new fashions in Ireland and how clothing might have been used and interpreted by Irish consumers. A number of key themes have emerged.

      Toby Barnard has stated of Ireland, with specific reference to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, that ’the extent to which...

  8. Part III Eating, Drinking and Making Merry

    • 7 Food, Drink and Society
      (pp. 143-147)

      Food and drink are not only vital for human sustenance and reproduction, they are also intrinsic to social, cultural and economic development. Yet, apart from in the areas of production and agriculture, historians have traditionally had very little to say about this area of consumption and material culture. In recent years, however, both the social and cultural significance of food and drink have begun to receive significant historiographical attention. According to Edward Muir: ‘No rituals are more widely practiced, more formative of social identity or more differentiating of social groups than the daily habits of dining. The distinction between eating...

    • 8 Provisions
      (pp. 148-172)

      In February 1576, Giles Wiggers of Antwerp set out on a voyage from Lisbon to Calais with a cargo of sugar and spices. En route, while most of the crew was sleeping, eight of the company ‘fell upon’ the rest, killing six. The master surrendered and was forced to bring his ship into the bay of Rosscarbery, in West Cork. Coming into the bay, he was greeted by Bishop Cornelius Brenner, who agreed to bring the ship safely ashore to Glandore Haven, with the help of local fishermen, in return for 30 ducats. This was to be paid with 60lb...

    • 9 The Grape and the Grain
      (pp. 173-184)

      Comparing the dietary components of England and Ireland during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Clarkson and Crawford noted that beer was in short supply in Ireland. Army victuallers apparently found it difficult to buy hopped beer in Ireland, and English soldiers disliked the local unhopped ale.¹ In 1580, for example, Lord Burghley instructed a Bristol Merchant, John Bland, to ship 2,000lb of hops to Ireland, telling him that there was the ‘gravest want of hopps in that country’.² Bland was also instructed to send brewing equipment and four coopers for a month, at a total cost of £106.³

      Contemporary evidence...

    • 10 Cooking and Dining
      (pp. 185-224)

      Very little is currently known about the processes of cooking or food technology in sixteenth-century Ireland. The absence of surviving recipe books, household accounts, probate inventories and physical evidence of everyday domestic utensils makes it extremely difficult to assess what changes, if any, occurred in Irish kitchens in this period. Contemporary references to cooking practices are plentiful but largely unhelpful, being intended to denigrate the practices of both the ‘wild’ and ‘English-Irish’, whose cooking practices, according to Moryson, had ‘little by little been affected with Irish filthiness’.¹ Nevertheless, it is possible to piece together at least some aspects of the...

    • 11 Drinking and Entertainment
      (pp. 225-238)

      Audrey Horning recently observed that wine served as a medium of economic exchange in plantation Ireland. In the 1604 leasing arrangements agreed between Thomas Phillips, later one of the chief architects of the Londonderry plantation, and the earl of Tyrone, the timber rights in Killetra County, Londonderry were to be paid for by a rent of one tun of claret and one half-tun of wine.¹ Although the exact role of wine is uncertain, it also seems to have served complex ritual and political functions in Anglo-Irish relations and in the process of negotiation.

      In a letter from John Garland to...

    • Part III – Summary
      (pp. 239-242)

      Part 3 has examined the extent to which south-east Ireland was integrated into the ‘widening world’ of sixteenth-century food, drink and entertainment, and has considered the social, cultural and economic significance of changes in this area of Irish consumption and material culture. As in the other sections of this book, it has questioned the impact of colonisation on the acquisition and interpretation of everyday items and has examined the extent to which changing Irish patterns of consumption indicate the social and cultural assimilation of ‘English’ habits in the sixteenth century.

      Despite contemporary references to the ‘filthy’ dietary habits of the...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 243-249)

    In the sixteenth century, south-east Ireland and its extensive hinterland witnessed significant changes in consumption. These mirrored, in many ways, the sorts of changes occurring in the Pale, in England and across Europe during the period. While not vast in term of value, the progressively complex range of goods imported into Ireland demonstrates that, whether or not Ireland was as ‘backwards’ as many contemporaries felt, it was gaining access to the increasingly sophisticated and diversified range of consumer goods being produced and traded in England and mainland Europe at this time. Ireland was able to participate in an evolving European...

  10. Appendices
    (pp. 250-278)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 279-288)
  12. Index
    (pp. 289-303)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 304-304)