This chapter introduces the hedge school phenomenon, and briefly shows how educational initiatives among Ireland’s poor were not without contemporary parallels. Yet, at the same time, the complicated linguistic situation in Ireland and events in the seventeenth century set up a distinctive context and particular incentives for classical interests. The book will challenge the recent scholarly skepticism regarding classical learning, while acknowledging the limitations of Corkery’s Hidden Ireland. It also observes the need to situate all discussion of classical learning and aspiration within a bilingual context: eighteenth-century Ireland as a place of vigorous interaction between Irish and English, with many individuals exhibiting competence in both languages.
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