Celtic Ireland (650-1650)

In the Celtic Irish culture of the Middle period and Early Modern age, courts and the law were chiefly anarchist, working in a entirely stateless way. This civilization persisted in this way for about a thousand years until it was subjugated by England in 1650.

In contrast to many similarly working clannish societies, preconquest Ireland was not in any sense “primitive”: it was a very intricate society that was, for centuries, the most sophisticated, most learned, and most enlightened in all of Western Europe.

Joseph R. Peden, wrote in “Property Rights in Celtic Irish Law” that, “There was no legislature, no bailiffs, no police, no public enforcement of justice… There was no trace of State-administered justice.”

All “freemen” who owned property, all professionals, and all craftsmen, were free to become members of a tuath. Each tuath’s members held a yearly meeting which determined all general policy, declared battle or peace on other tuatha, and chose or deposed their “kings.”

In contrast to primitive tribes, no one was stuck or bound to a certain tuath, either because of relationship or of physical locality. Individual members were open to, and regularly did, split from a tuath and join a rival tuath.

Professor Peden states, “The tuath is thus a body of persons voluntarily united for socially beneficial purposes and the sum total of the landed properties of its members constituted its territorial dimension.”

“The ‘king’ had no political power; he could not decree or administer justice or declare war. Basically he was a priest and militia leader, and presided over the tuath assemblies.”

Celtic Ireland survived lots of invasions, but was at last defeated by Oliver Cromwell’s reconquest in 1649-50.

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