English rule over the island of Ireland dates back to the 12th century. In the 16th century Queen Elizabeth I of England encouraged (forced) the large-scale immigration of Scottish Protestants. During ensuing centuries, a series of rebellions by Irish Catholics were put down as the Anglo-Irish minority extended their domination over the Catholic majority. Under absentee landlords, the Irish population was reduced to a subsistence diet based on potatoes, and when a potato blight struck the country in the 1840s, one million people starved to death while nearly two million more fled to the United States.
A movement for Irish home rule gained momentum in the late 19th century, and in 1916 Irish nationalists launched the Easter Rising against British rule in Dublin. The rebellion was crushed, but widespread agitation for independence continued. In 1919, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) under the leadership of Michael Collins launched a widespread and effective guerrilla campaign against British forces. In 1921, a cease-fire was declared, and in January 1922 Irish nationalists signed a peace treaty with Britain, calling for the partition of Ireland, with the south becoming autonomous and the six northern counties of the island remaining in the United Kingdom.
A faction of Irish Republicans refused to accept the treaty because of its continued association with Britain. Civil war broke out even before the declaration of the Irish Free State on December 6, 1922, and ended with the victory of the Irish Free State over the Irish Republican forces in 1923. A constitution adopted by the Irish people in 1937 declared Ireland to be "a sovereign, independent, democratic state," and the Irish Free State was renamed Eire. Eire remained neutral during World War II, and in 1949 the Republic of Ireland Act severed the last remaining link with the Commonwealth.
Live Long and Prosper...