This article draws attention to an under-appreciated historical text commonly known as Annála gearra as proibhinse Ard Macha. As well as reporting events not recorded elsewhere in any other medieval Irish sources, such as the battle of Hastings, the synchronistic chronological structure of the text distinguishes it from better-known annals. This article provides the first modern translation of the text, which was edited by Gearóid Mac Niocaill in the 1950s; examines its sources, content, and structure; discusses its relationship to other major annal collections; and reflects on its place within the historiographical tradition of medieval Ireland. It argues that the text was compiled in its current form in Armagh in the middle of the twelfth century, and that political and religious concerns of that church and period were influential in shaping both its structure and content.
The Middle Gaelic poem Cumtach na nIudaide n-aird belongs to a medieval tradition of listing national characteristics. Its composition reflects interest among the Gaelic learned classes in the diversity of humankind. The poet drew heavily on the Latin tract De proprietatibus gentium, but adapted its form and, possibly, content to reflect local concerns. In this way, the poem represents Gaelic scholars' engagement with the learned culture of medieval Europe. The same impression of Gaelic scholarship—that it was a local manifestation of a broader, European tradition in which widely held ideas were given local currency through adaptation—is apparent in the ways in which Gaelic scholars down to the seventeenth century conceptualised national characteristics, which was influenced by both international trends and local learning.