Foras Feasa ar Éirinn

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Foras Feasa ar Éirinn – literally, "Foundation of Knowledge on Ireland" but most often known in English as "The History of Ireland"[1] – is a narrative history of Ireland by Geoffrey Keating, written in Irish and completed c. 1634.[2]


It begins with a preface in which Keating defends the honour of Ireland against the denigrations of writers such as Giraldus Cambrensis,[3] followed by a narrative history in two parts: part one, from the creation of the world to the arrival of Christianity in the 5th century, and part two, from the 5th century to the coming of the Normans in the 12th century.[4]

It depicts Ireland as an autonomous, unitary kingdom of great antiquity. The early part of the work is largely mythical, depicting the history of Ireland as a succession of invasions and settlements, and derives primarily from medieval writings such as the Lebor Gabála Érenn, the Dindsenchas, royal genealogies and stories of heroic kings. The later part depicts the Normans as the latest in this series of settlers.[3] Keating, a Catholic priest of Anglo-Norman descent, gave Irish people of both Gaelic and Norman ancestry a shared place in the history of the nation,[4] and emphasised the role of the Church as a unifying factor in Irish society.[3]

The work was extremely popular, surviving in a large number of manuscripts,[5] and its prose style became the standard followed by generations of Irish-language writers.[6] However, it was received critically from the start, with Sir Richard Cox, a protestant lawyer of English descent, describing it in the 1680s as "an ill-digested heap of very silly fictions".[3] Modern scholars view it in the context of the antiquarian tendency of Renaissance humanism, with Keating expounding on ancient Irish sources, whose authority he defends, to provide "an origin-legend for Counter-Reformation Catholic Ireland."[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Describing the Battle - Keating's Foras Feasa ar Éireann (1643), Battle of Clontarf, Trinity College Dublin, retrieved 17 September 2015
  2. ^ Bernadette Cunningham, ‘Keating, Geoffrey [Seathrún Céitinn] (b. c.1580, d. in or before 1644)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 17 Sept 2015
  3. ^ a b c d Bernadette Cunningham, "Geoffrey Keating’s Foras Feasa ar Éirinn", History Ireland Vol. 9 issue 1, Spring 2001, retrieved 17 September 2015
  4. ^ a b Library: Foras Feasa ar Éirinn Archived 2015-07-02 at the Wayback Machine, Royal Irish Academy, retrieved 17 September 2015
  5. ^ a b Brendan Bradshaw, Andrew Hadfield and Willy Maley, Representing Ireland: Literature and the Origins of Conflict, 1534-1660, Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 166-168
  6. ^ Diarmuid Ó Murchadha (2005) "A review of some placename material from Foras Feasa ar Éirinn", Éigse, A Journal of Irish Studies, Vol. 35, p. 81, National University of Ireland

Editions and translation[edit]

For a fuller list of translations and editions see : "The History of Ireland", Corpus of Electronic Texts (CELT)


External links[edit]