Smith: The Ancient and Present State of the County and City of Waterford

Pdf Smith, Charles. The antient and present state of the county and city of Waterford. Dublin: A. Reilly, 1746.
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The Antient And Present State of The County And City Of Waterford by Charles Smith (1715-1762) was published in 1746 and is among the first significant histories of the region. Charles Smith aimed to produce a series covering every county in Ireland with fellow historian Walter Harris but the society funding the ambitious project folded in the 1730s. The work covers the history of Waterford from prehistoric times until the mid 18th century.

In the 18th century it was still generally believed that the world was only a few thousand years old. Early Irish chroniclers tried to establish the ancestry of the Irish race back to the Noah and the survivors of the Biblical deluge. It was believed a wave of settlers arrived in Ireland culminating in the Milesians who are said to be the ancestors of the Gaels. These settlers were credited with creating the stone monuments which are now known to have been created by Stone Age peoples following last Ice Age.

One group of ancient Gaels called the Déise are said to have been driven out of Meath into what is now Waterford. The Whelan clan were among the most powerful of these Gaelic clans around the time of the Norman invasion in the 12th century. Christianity came to Waterford when followers of St. Patrick converted local chiefs and established monastic settlements such as Ardmore. From there monks are said to have travelled throughout barbarian Europe in the wake of the collapse of the Roman Empire and established medieval Christendom.

The wealth of Irish monasteries attracted Viking raiders who established a series of settlements on the River Suir which in time became the city of Waterford. Viking rulers controlled the city until the Norman conquest of the 12th century. Afterward County Waterford was part of the domain of the Fitzgeralds of Desmond, a powerful Norman dynasty. Waterford city meanwhile received a royal charter that gave it administrative independence. Cistercians, Dominicans, Augustinians and the Knights Templar established themselves in a series of monasteries and friaries that flourished until the 16th century Protestant Reformation. Centuries of war followed as the Gaelic Irish and Old English descendants of the Norman conquerors refused to renounce their Catholicism. The ruins of castles and fortresses testify to the ferocity of a series of ethnic and religious wars in the early modern era.

In the 17th century the Catholic Confederacy controlled two thirds of Ireland in the years 1641-1649 until they were defeated by the English Parliamentarians. Waterford city was besieged and captured by the forces of Oliver Cromwell in 1650. The restoration of the English throne in 1660 and the subsequent reign of James II improved the fortunes of the Catholic aristocracy who threw their lot behind him in his war with Protestant nephew and brother in law William III of Orange. The final defeat in Ireland of the Jacobites in 1691 meant that Waterford became a Protestant dominated city and county while most Catholics were reduced to the status of tenants and landless peasants by the Penal Laws.

The 18th century the city of Waterford prospered changing from a walled medieval fortress into an elegant Georgian city. Industries such as glass making and shipbuilding flourished. The economy was dominated by an Anglo-Irish elite who were descendants of Protestant settlers. Aristocrats such as the Earls of Waterford and the Duke of Leinster and many more owned vast estates inhabited by impoverished the Catholic Irish who survived on the potato. They paid exorbitant rents and tithes to the Anglican Church. The same year that Smith's history was published, the last Jacobite resistance was crushed at the Battle of Culloden in Scotland in 1746.

Charles Smith (1715-1762) is believed to have been a apothecary and to have been a native of Dungarvan, County Waterford . He studied medicine at Trinity College and was a topography pioneer who produced histories of Waterford in 1746, Cork in 1750 and Kerry in 1756. Smith is also credited with a history of County Down in 1744. In 1756 Smith with other medical colleagues established the Medical-Philosophical Society in Dublin while he also was a member of the Physico-Historical Society and Royal Dublin Society. He died in Bristol in 1762.

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