R.J. Hunter’s research for his M.Litt. thesis spanned most of the 1960s. Focussing on the counties of Armagh and Cavan, he carefully dissected the impact of the scheme for the plantation in Ulster in the early decades of the 1600s. For reasons that are highlighted by David Edwards in his Foreword, this thesis was never published in Robert’s lifetime and was only accessible in the library of Trinity College, Dublin.
As Dr Edwards notes, the first part of his study was ‘grounded on a strong chronological foundation, in which each development was located in its proper time and place, a meticulous process which allowed even minor details to gain added meaning as, expertly, they were fitted in to a larger sequence.’ The second section of the thesis looks at the development of towns in the two counties, rural conditions and estate mangement, and the impact of the Reformation.
In his Preface R.J. Hunter briefly sets out his rationale for undertaking this study and some of the difficulties he encountered in the course of his research.
Since Professor Moody’s comprehensive study of the Londonderry plantation was published, almost thirty years ago, there has been no attempt to examine the plantation in any of the other escheated counties of Ulster. This thesis, undertaken at his suggestion, seeks to extend the treatment to two counties, each with distinctive features, where individual settlers rather than corporate bodies were the predominating agents of colonisation.
Apart from my own limitations in evaluating the surviving materials, I have been hampered throughout by the very limited amount of surviving estate materials and sources of local and legal administration from which systematic data could be drawn. As a result the treatment of many social and economic aspects has been necessarily incomplete and inconclusive. However, much that is suggestive has been included in the hope that studies of other counties will reveal complementary information from which a general picture of the plantation can eventually be built up.
The development of settlement in both counties has been examined against a background of the history of the plantation as a whole. The separation of particular and general aspects has presented difficulties, but in so far as possible both have been considered in different sections of each chapter.