Doing God’s work? The role of the church in the expansion of the early medieval Irish economy, AD 400-1100

PhD Candidate: Paul Stevens
Supervisor: Professor Aidan O'Sullivan
Funded By: Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme

Abstract

This project will utilise dramatic new archaeological evidence to investigate the role of the early Irish church—and particularly its monastic settlements—in social, ideological and economic transformations in Ireland and beyond. The project seeks to explore how the church with its extensive agricultural estates, its patronage of specialist crafts and its power and control, became a major player in the first ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy, AD 400-1100. It will exploit the vast array of new archaeological and palaeoecological evidence uncovered in hundreds of archaeological excavations to explore the role of the church in production, consumption and re-distribution—the three major elements of the early medieval economy in Europe

This project will pose three key research questions:

  • What was the role of the Church in the organisation of economic production, consumption and distribution in early medieval Ireland?
  • How was production organised in social, ideological and spatial terms on early Irish monastic sites?
  • What are the implications of this evidence for our understanding of the development of the early medieval economy in Ireland and beyond?