LETTER : English caricature of the Irish nation

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Sir: To suggest that the English merely pretended that the Irish were wild and uncivilised in order to justify invading their country ("Irish butt of English racism for more than eight centuries", 20 March) is to make the mistake of imposing modern values on the past.

The English really did believe that the Irish were a backward people. After all, they lived in a country that had barely emerged - in economic terms - from the Stone Age at the time of the first Anglo-Norman invasion; a country that spent the next six centuries in a state of continual civil war; a country whose farmers had not learned how to thresh corn and who had their horses draw ploughs by the tail; a country that never enjoyed an industrial revolution.

English caricatures of the Irish were based upon, although distortions of, the truth. The real issue is the extent to which the English were themselves responsible for creating the truth that led to the caricature, by keeping Ireland in a state of colonial dependency.

Andrew Barr

London NW6