Gaels (Irish) - History and Cultural Relations

The long history of Gaelic speakers in Ireland has been marked by the production of noble epic poetry but also by the depredations of Viking marauders and later by the suppression of the language by English soldiers and settlers in the country. Parallel with this military suppression of the Irish peasantry was the outlawing of the Gaelic tongue, which inevitably led to the "hedge schools" of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, so called because they had to meet in secret behind hedges. Irish literature and classical learning were both imparted in Gaelic. By the nineteenth century, Village schools teaching in English were becoming widespread. The founding of the nationalistic Gaelic League in 1893 put the Gaelic language into a new light: from then on it was promoted (by urbanized, English-speaking Irish) as the language of what would one day become the Irish Free State (formed in 1922); and the literary revival of Gaelic that the league initiated has marked the twentieth century. But those in the Gaeltachts found little comfort in being patronized by city intellectuals, and otherwise they saw no real extension for the utility of Gaelic.

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