Review: The Irish Wars 1485-1603

    • Ian Heath & David Sque, Osprey Men-at-Arms Series #256, 1993.

Once again the ever active Osprey Publishing house has provided a valuable addition to an anachronists library. The Irish Wars is an examination of the three warring peoples in the the Ireland of the 118 years covered. Anyone interested in Irish, English or Scots military history would be well served by this book.

Being particularly interested in Scottish military history I was especially pleased with this new work. The Irish Wars fills some of the gap between their previously published The Scottish and Welsh Wars 1250-1400 (#151) and The Jacobite Rebellions (#118). The only other mention of Scottish troops in this period is in The Army of Gustavus Adolphus (1): Infantry (#235).

Heath has chosen the body illustrations well, and the colour plates are very good. Special mention must be made of the reproductions of prints from Derricke's The Image of Ireland. Any who have researched Irish or Scottish costume will have seen some of this series of 12 woodcuts but Heath has made a point of reproducing them all in this one book. (A note for those researching Scottish costume: between this book and The Army of Gustavus Adolphus, almost all known illustrations of Scottish garb before 1650 are reproduced.)

One drawback of the book however is a lack of analysis of the sources. Sque seems to accept the period sources without question. He bases some of the armour and weapons on source pictures of questionable reliability with little notice. In particular, he uses an illustration by Albrecht Durer, who never actually visited the country, nor, to anyone's knowledge, actually met an Irishman. Mr Heath on the other hand might have been less dismissive of the evidence from grave slabs of the western islands of Scotland.