Frost: The History and Topography of County Clare

Pdf Frost, James. The history and topography of the county of Clare. Dublin: Sealy, Bryers & Walker, 1893.
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James Frost's The History And Topography Of The County Of Clare was first published in 1893 and covers the history of County Clare from ancient times to the end of the 18th century. It contains a thorough description of the people, localities, landscape, economy and a blow by blow account of its often turbulent and violent history. The fortunes and the rise and fall of the Gaelic, Old English and Anglo-Protestant dynasties in County Clare is vividly described within the context of the wider history of Ireland, Britain and Europe.

The County of Clare is bordered to the southwest by the Shannon Estuary, to the north east by Lough Derg, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north by Galway Bay. Much of the county is rugged limestone karst landscape known as 'The Burren.' The rugged Atlantic Coast features the towering Cliffs of Moher where a stone tower was built by Sir Cornelius O'Brien, a descendent of Brian Ború with spectacular views of the ocean and coastline.

From ancient times the county was inhabitated and features large numbers of megalithic tombs. Edmund Ludlow who fought Irish rebels in Co. Clare during the 17th century Cromwellian invasion of Ireland said of the area that it was "a country where there is not enough water to drown a man, wood enough to hang one, nor earth enough to bury him."

The Clare-based Gaelic Dalcassian septs ruled the Kingdom of Thomond and included the O'Briens from whom came Brian Ború, the High King of Ireland who defeated the forces of Leinster and the Vikings at Clontarf in 1014. For hundreds of years the O'Briens were the most important Gaelic clan in the region and following the English conquests of Ireland and the Protestant Reformation, they retained their power. The O'Briens were Earls and Barons of Inchiquin, Marguesses of Thomond and Viscounts of Clare until the 20th century after they adopted English customs, laws and religion.

Frost describes how the Kingdom of Thomond was defeated following the 12th century Norman invasion, the assimilation of the Old English into Gaelic Irish society and the rebellions and wars of the 16th and 17th century. 

The power of the Catholic Gaelic Irish was broken and replaced by an Anglo-Irish Protestant hegemony. The remoteness of much of County Clare meant that it remained economically undeveloped compared to the rest of Munster, Leinster and Ulster. Catholic and Old English landowners were transplanted to Connaught and Clare beyond the River Shannon. By the turn of the 19th century the impoverished Gaelic Irish peasantry in Co. Clare scratched out an existence in an unforgiving landscape that contributed to the heavy price they paid during the subsequent Great Irish Potato Famine in the 1840s.

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