Since its original publication in 1986, Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael has acquired 'cult status' as one of the most extensive and incisive studies on the growth of an Irish national identity. Spanning five centuries, the sources dealt with are drawn from three linguistic traditions, Irish-Gaelic, Latin and English and chart the slow and painful process of cultural confrontation, antagonism and interaction. Leerssen takes for his central theme the formulation of an ideal or stereotype of 'Irishness' - Mere Irish in English discourse, Fior-Ghael from the native point of view. The author traces the development of this ethnic image in discursive traditions and genres as diverse as Gaelic poetry, English drama, religious controversial writings, political commentary and historiography, from the Middle Ages until the Act of Union. This is both a pre-history of Irish nationalism and a compendium of Irish cultural history; it addresses, not only the interaction between political and literary developments, but also between Ireland's cultural traditions.