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Celts are traditionally thought to have colonized Ireland in a series of waves between the eighth and first centuries BC, with the Gaelic tribe ultimately conquering the island. History maintains that, in AD 432, St. Patrick arrived on the island and converted the Irish to Christianity. Irish Christian scholars excelled in the study of Latin and Christian theology. Monasteries flourished, preserving Latin learning during the Early Middle Ages. This era was interrupted in the ninth century by 200 years of intermittent warfare with Viking raiders who plundered the Irish coast. Eventually Vikings settled in Ireland, establishing towns including the modern day cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford.
In 1172, King Henry II of England was granted Irish lands by Pope Adrian IV, and from the 13th century, English law began to be introduced, though English rule was largely limited to the area around Dublin and Waterford. The 16th and 17th centuries brought the collapse of the Gaelic social and political structure and the Tudor re-conquest of Ireland, leading to English control over the whole island. After the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Irish Catholics were barred from voting or attending the Irish Parliament.
In 1800, the Irish Parliament passed the Act of Union which, in 1801, merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The whole island of Ireland became part of the United Kingdom, ruled directly by the UK Parliament in London.
The 19th century saw the Great Famine of the 1840s, a tragedy caused by the apathy of the British Government, in which one million Irish people died and millions more were forced to emigrate. The pre-famine population of over 8 million was reduced by half as a result.
The years spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the survivors of the famine mount a vigorous but unsuccessful campaign for Irish home rule, which was brutally suppressed. In 1922, following the Irish Rising of 1916 and the subsequent Anglo-Irish War, 26 counties of Ireland won freedom from the United Kingdom as the Irish Free State. The remaining six, in the north-east, remained within the Union as Northern Ireland.
This British-backed partition of Ireland led directly to the Civil War, as those who favored a united Ireland fought with moderates willing to accept the establishment of the Irish Free State as a stepping-stone to the goal of a completely free Ireland.
In 1949, the state declared itself to be a republic, henceforth known as the Republic of Ireland. The state was plagued by poverty and emigration until the mid-1970s. The 1990s saw the beginning of unprecedented economic success, in a phenomenon known as the "Celtic Tiger.” By the early 2000s, it had become one of the richest countries in the European Union. The global economic collapse of 2008 has put a damper on Ireland's rapid economic growth, but the country remains a major EU success story.