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Dublin - A Short History

Dublin - A Short History
The name Dublin comes from the Gaelic dubh linn or “black pool” - where the Poddle stream met the River Liffey to form a deep pool at Dublin Castle. The city's modern name - Baile Áth Cliath – means the “town of the ford of the hurdles”. Ireland's four principal routeways converged at a crossing place made of hurdles of interwoven saplings straddling the low-tide Liffey.

837 AD – 917 AD:  In 837, sixty Viking longships attacked churches round the Poddle and Liffey estuary, and the invaders made a permanent settlement in 841.

917 – 1014: Dublin was the Viking world’s largest city and traded from Iceland to Constantinople. The first genuine ruler of all Ireland - High King, Brian Boru - was rebelled against by Dublin Vikings and the Leinster Irish.  With the aid of Vikings, Brian crushed his foes, then was himself slain, in an epic battle atClontarf in 1014.

1014 – 1170:  The Vikings adopted Christianity and founded Christ Church Cathedral.  In 1169, the deposed Irish King MacMurrough sought help from south-west Wales Normans who, under their leader Richard FitzGilbert de Clare (Strongbow), seized Dublin.

1171 – 1399:  In 1171 Henry II landed with a great army, and made Dublin the capital of the Normans' Irish territory and the heart of the Norman and English colony. Christ Church was rebuilt in the Gothic style and work began on St Patrick’s Cathedral. In 1317 Scottish KingRobert the Bruce and brother Edward failed to take the city, but much destruction ensued.  In1348 the city was gripped by the Black Death.

1399 – 1603: English royal control of Ireland shrank during the 14th and 15th Centuries to coastal towns and an area round Dublin known as the Pale. From 1485-1603 the city played a crucial role when Tudor monarchs undertook a reconquest. In 1603 The Earl of Tyrone submitted and, for the first time, the Crown won control of the entire island.

1603 – 1660: English monarchs decided Ireland should become Protestant. Christ Church and St Patrick’s were taken over and restored. English Civil War broke out in 1642 and many citizens joined the Gaelic Irish rebellion which had begun the year before.  Eventually the forces of Parliament prevailed, and defeated royalists and the Irish besieged Dublin at Rathmines in 1649.  Oliver Cromwell landed thirteen days later to begin the relentless subjugation of the country

1660 – 1691:  A remarkable period of recovery began and, between 1610-1683, the population rose from 26,000 to 58,000.  Instability returned when James II, chased from England, arrived in Ireland via France in 1689. He was given an enthusiastic reception in Dublin but, after defeat by William of Orange at the Boyne in 1690, returned to France.

1691 – 1798:  A long peace followed William III’s victory, and Dublin became the British Empire's second largest city. By the middle of the 18th Century, the population was close to 130,000. A magnificent new parliament house (now the Bank of Ireland)  was built in 1728 and a splendid gateway and façade for Trinity College completed in 1759 – making College Green the social hub of Dublin.

1798 – 1900: Rebellion by the United Irishmen in1798.  The authorities kept the insurrection out of Dublin but the revolt convinced Westminster to close the Dublin Parliament, and the 1801 Act of Union saw Ireland ruled from London. The aristocracy slowly deserted and, while it continued to grow, the city endured severe economic difficulties.  Destitute victims of theGreat Famine poured into Dublin from 1845-1850.

1900 – 1923:  At the outbreak of WWI, the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Irish Citizen Army prepared rebellion. The insurrection began on Easter Monday 1916 and was eventually put down, leaving much of the city centre around the General Post Office reduced to rubble. During theWar of Independence, beginning in 1919, much guerrilla fighting took place in the streets, and in May 1921 the Irish Republican Army burned the Custom House. The 1921 Anglo-Irish Treatymade Dublin the capital of the Irish Free State.  Disagreement over the terms of the Treaty resulted in civil war which began when Free State troops bombarded the Four Courts and buildings in O’Connell Street.  The anti-Treaty IRA called a truce in the spring of 1923.

1923 – 1965:  Dublin remained an elegant but somewhat impoverished city - the capital of a state which, in stages, severed its last links with the British Empire in the 1930s and 1940s and became a republic in 1949. Ireland's 1st Taoiseach (or Prime Minister) Eamon de Valerakept the state - renamed Éire in 1937 - out of WW2. Incidentally, Ireland's first leader, or President of the Executive Council,  was WT Cosgrave (1922-32).

1965 – 1991:  A long era of peace, with trade agreements with Britain in 1965 and the joining of the Common Market in 1973 heralding spectacular – if uneven – city growth. In 1963, four months before his assassination, President Kennedy visited Ireland. In 1979 Pope John Paul ll - the first reigning Pope to visit Ireland - celebrated mass in front of one million people at Phoenix Park. In 1985 the Irish and British governments signed the Anglo-Irish Agreementgiving the Republic of Ireland a consultative role in the NI government. In 1988 Dublin celebrated its Millennium and became European Capital of Culture in 1991.

1990s-present: From the 1990s, the Celtic Tigereconomy boomed and many ex-pats – or  Irish Diaspora – returned home. House prices vied with those in London, and international music success, from Ireland’s 7th Eurovision Song Contest win (and the birth of Riverdance) to the global domination of rock band U2,  further cemented Ireland's new culture of cool. In 1990Mary Robinson became the first femalePresident of  Ireland and was succeeded in1997 by current President, Belfast-born Mary McAleese. The feel-good factor spread into sport; back in 1987, cyclist Stephen Roche had won the Tour De FranceIreland beat Italy in the 1994 US World Cup Finals and runner Sonia O'Sullivan won World Championship gold in1995 and Olympic silver in 2000. In 2002 theEuro replaced the Punt as Ireland's currency.

Written by Dr. Jonathan Bardon OBE.


Ireland's Nobel Prize for Literature winners
1923: WB Yeats
1925: George Bernard Shaw
1969: Samuel Beckett
1995: Seamus Heaney

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Dublin - A Short History comments Add Yours

  • Kurt Biewald - Everett, MA 20 March 2012
    thank you i was interested in my Irish roots from the TV show I saw on St. Patty day. This was exactly the sort of thing I was looking for. Some information but not too much.
  • Reader - Johanesburg, Gauteng 29 May 2011
    It said that this was a short history but it isnt it is realy long.Do you think you could make it shorter or dont say that it is short
  • Joel Mahuika - Hamilton, New Zealand 29 May 2011
    A very informative website on Ireland. I used this site to assist me with Irish history which I'm studying at university. I also have Irish ancestors who come from Roscommon and their my mum's maiden name is Ormsby(Viking Irish). But they were protestant aristocrats who emigrated around the world & ended up in NZ to produce me.

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