The Statute of Kilkenny (1366): Legislation and the State


  • I am grateful to the editors and anonymous reviewers of the Journal of Historical Sociology for their helpful comments which have done much to improve this paper. In addition thanks are due to Peter Crooks, Gillian Kenny, and Mark Ormrod for their assistance and insights.


This article offers a re-evaluation of the notorious Statute of Kilkenny by placing it within a broader context of English state development in the fourteenth century. It argues that the Statute needs to be understood as part of a wider political and legislative programme shaped by military expansionism and the upheaval of the Black Death. Although racially motivated, at least in part, the Statute should not be seen as attempting to engineer a form of apartheid in Anglo-Ireland. Rather it was representative of a broader governing culture and compares closely with legislation enforced not only in the other Plantagenet dominions but also in England itself.