This chapter considers the context of Elizabethan settlement in Ireland by examining the forms of early English colonization: the physical structure of settlements, the activities taking place within them, and the functions these sites fulfilled. The first period (1540–75) witnessed Protector Somerset's aggressive moves in Ireland and Scotland, Mary's unwise entanglement in Hapsburg policy and the subsequent loss of Calais, and Elizabeth's approval of several overly ambitious private colonies. The second phase (1575–1606) witnessed the rebellion and confiscatory defeat of the Earl of Desmond, unsuccessful royally approved attempts to establish a foothold on the North American coast, and the destruction of both the Munster Plantation and the Irish forces of resistance. The final period (1606–40) saw the resettlement of pacified Munster; the flight of the ‘Wild Geese’ earls; the distribution of their lands to London guild companies and the planting there of settlers from Scotland and north England.
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