While the general concept of civility was influential throughout Europe, modern scholarship tends to perceive its application in Ireland as particularly radical. Hence, the specific instance of ‘English civility’ can be understood as the ideology behind Tudor endeavours in sixteenth-century Ireland. While this phenomenon found frequent mention by scholars on Tudor Ireland in the form of an expression of English cultural, social and political superiority over the Gaelic Irish community, this study focusses on the investigation of the concept and its connection to the so-called Rhetoric of Difference employed by contemporary officials to describe the inhabitants of Tudor Ireland.
This study investigates the development, deployment, and consequences of the concept of English civility while also putting it into a broader European perspective by establishing a comparative historical perspective with the relationship between early modern Sweden and Finland.
The study discusses the creation of English civility in Tudor Ireland based on a comparison of general English ideas of civility with perceptions of Gaelic Irish barbarism. This is followed by an overview of three modes of legitimising English superiority which had a direct or indirect influence on the interpretation of English civility in general and its implementation in Ireland in specific. Subsequently, the materialisation of the concept of English civility is examined through processes of the Tudor reorganization of the Irish countryside and the implementation of English state building policies. Lastly, a discussion follows of the so-called degeneracy of those English born in Ireland as a direct result of the ideological exploitation of English civility.