The Tudor sovereigns’ attempts to restore central authority in Ireland were beleaguered by endemic war and the reality of a realm politically and culturally divided. These problems drew the attention of social and religious reformers whose aims were to perfect a civil and godly commonwealth. The major intellectual movements of the sixteenth century provided the English with justifications for eradicating independent power, prohibiting Irish language and culture, confiscating Irish land, and introducing English settlers with mandates to build, plant, and reorganize the landscape. This article considers the ways in which theories of personal and national improvement in sixteenth-century England were applied to the educational and civic aims of the state-building program in Ireland. Ideas about virtue, order, industry, and agriculture found in classical and theological sources could be readily drawn upon to add nobility to the Tudor conquest, which could now be fashioned as a morally and divinely justified endeavor.