Civilization has existed in Ireland since before 6,000 BC. The first farming communities were built in 4,000 BC and included livestock and crops. Around 750 BC the Celts arrived in Ireland, bring with them weapons and tools. The priests from this group were called the Druids and worshiped several gods. The Celts also lived in a divided society with three different classes.
Around the 4th century, Christianity came to Ireland and shortly after Patrick arrived. Patrick wanted to build a church in Ireland based on Roman beliefs, but instead the Irish church transitioned to a monastic system. The golden age of the Irish church occurred from about 500 to 800 AD. Monasteries were built and missionaries were sent into other parts of the world. One thing that stood out in Ireland from other parts of the world was the learning that continued during the Dark Ages amongst the monks.
In 795 AD the Vikings attacked Ireland, looting monasteries and taking women and children into slavery. They also brought craftsmanship to the country and built the towns of Cork, Limerick, Wexford, and Dublin. This is also when Ireland got its name.
The Tudor conquest of Ireland began in the late 1400s. Events transitioned Ireland to a country living under a great deal of English control. This
included Henry VIII becoming head of the Irish church during the reformation and eventually being recognized as the king of Ireland.
Much of the English stronghold over the country led to resentment among the Irish, which eventually led to a rebellion in the 17th century. The early century was filled with battles and massacres, ultimately resulting in even more English control. Irish Catholics had their land confiscated during this time. Catholics continued to live under oppressive control into the 18th century. It was not until the mid-1770s these laws began to be repealed. The revolutions that were occurring in France and the United States inspired groups in Ireland to form with the same attitude of rebellion.
It was England’s control and interference in Irish affairs that led to the country’s famed Potato Famine. Potatoes were the primary food in the Irish diet, so when the country’s crops were infected with disease, it had a major impact on the country. The English government was in control, but chose to do a limited number of things to fight the famine. Within a short time, more than a million Irish starved and many others left for other countries.
Needless to say, the lack of effort on the part of the English to combat such a serious issue led to great feelings of resentment. In 1919, the IRA was formed and began a guerilla warfare effort that lasted for two years. Little was solved by the end of the war and Ireland continued to descend into economic peril. By the 1930s, unemployment was high and living conditions were poor throughout the country. Some industrial development helped to improve things into the 1940s, as did a new constitution for the country, created in 1937. By 1948, Irish ties with Britain ended and Ireland became a republic.
The Irish economy grew rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, and the population began to rise for the first time in more than 100 years. There was some lag in the economy in the 1980s, but by the 1990s things began to soar. Ireland saw its first female president in 1990 and unemployment was less than 4% by the turn of the century. Ireland has been affected by recent economic developments in Europe and had an unemployment rate of more than 13% in 2010, but still has a strong overall economy.