through its ports of Dundalk and Drogheda and via the short overland journey from Dublin. At the same time it was always a marcher county with a perennial security problem and in due course became the northernmost county of the increasingly beleaguered lands of the Pale. Moreover, Louth looms larger in the annals of Irish history than its size alone would justify. Mellifont Abbey, the senior Cistercian house in Ireland, is located in the county and in 1228 was the subject of a celebrated and well-documented visitation by Stephen of Lexing- ton. In 1318 Edward Bruce and his Scottish army, which had laid waste to so much of the Anglo-Norman lordship during the previous three years of severe famine, were finally defeated at Faughart outside Dundalk. And in 1329 John de Bermingham, the victor of Faughart who had been rewarded with the earldom and liberty of Louth, was massacred along with 160 of his followers by a large force of local men-many his own tenants-led by John de Cusack, sheriff of Louth. Events of national significance therefore punctuate and lend interest to this county history. Even without them, the author's skill in using local evidence to address wider issues-the often fraught relationship between English and Irish, the bonds and tensions within the English colony, local allegiances versus central authority, and the political instability engendered by long-running ecclesiastical disputes-would recommend it to a wider and not exclusively Irish audience. Smith highlights several comparisons to be drawn with south Wales, and readers of the Welsh History Review will no doubt be struck by further points of similarity and contrast. This is very much a book by a historian, rooted as it is in the available written sources. It is a model of how much can be gleaned from even the most fragmentary and unpromising records by combining the meticulous reading of texts, in both Latin and Gaelic, with a rigorous and presumably computerized prosopographical method. Perforce, this reveals most where there is most evidence with which to work. The author is clearly frustrated by the paucity of written evidence for the first formative sixty years of the English colony in Louth, after which the further annexation of land from the Irish ceased to be a realistic proposition. He has much more to say about the situation from the 1280s, when the records are at their fullest. By this stage 'it is clear that the energies of local lords were geared towards averting potential problems from the Irish and to exploiting any advantage which might accrue from close relations with individual native leaders' (p. 82). Together, sources and method reinforce the author's own top-down rather than bottom-up approach to colonial society. There may be much circum- stantial evidence to suggest considerable immigration but the humbler English settlers remain but shadowy figures; their histories will have to be excavated rather than prosopographically reconstituted. Riot and commotion also receive more attention than the humdrum business of making a living. What was the