Top 5: History of Dublin 1500-2000

By Lisa Marie Griffith

My PhD focused on Dublin and my research (and residency) has instilled me with a keen interest and passion for the history and architecture of the capital. I was appalled a few years ago when running an extramural course on Dublin history when a student told me that ‘as an outsider’, I am from Waterford, I could never truly understand the history of the city. I have since realised that his comment is just indicative of the passion which the city inspires in its older and more established citizens!  As someone coming to the urban history of Dublin as an outsider seeking a broad history, and then looking for some reliably accurate academic studies here is my top 5 in no particular order.

1. Maurice Craig, Dublin 1660-1860: The shaping of a city: Craig is an art-historian so I like this as it is not a traditional history. The evolution of the city, its development, architecture and civic spaces and the book shows how the city was shaped by figures rather than being led by events and people. This isn’t just an architectural history and should not be underestimated. It is a fantastic urban history. There are many editions of this wonderfully written history but if possible avoid the Liberties Revival edition which is riddled with typos and spelling errors.

2. The Dublin Town Atlas, 1 &2: It’s a bit of a cheat putting two together, especially when one is medieval, but they both stand-alone in what they can tell us about the evolution of the modern city and how the inhabitants shaped the city. These are also great for the class room and teaching!

3. Christine Casey, Dublin (Yale’s Building’s of Ireland series). This is a fantastic directory of Dublin and is really useful for breaking down the city, street by street and building by building

4. Ruth McManus, Dublin, 1910-40: shaping the city and suburbs (Dublin, 2003). This is examination looks at how the Victorian city evolved into the modern city, the rapid growth of Dublin suburbs and the private and public developments and the politics involved in the city’s modernization.

5. Niall McCullough,  Dublin, An Urban History, the Plan of the City (Dublin, 2007). The photographs alone in this book make it worth a browse as they chart the major changes city experienced during the twentieth century and the study provides a poignant look at Dublin’s slums while it contrasts an emerging modern Dublin with busy shopping streets where cars are replacing carts with the decay of Dublin’s Georgian buildings.

I feel I should add it took me a long time and a lots of rewriting, I wanted a top 7 to be honest, so this post is open to comment and other suggestions that you may have.

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5 Responses to “Top 5: History of Dublin 1500-2000”

  1. Frank Says:

    Perhaps Jacinta Prunty’s Dublin slums, 1800-1925, a study in urban geography and John T Gilbert’s History of the City of Dublin should be added to the list.

  2. puesoccurrences Says:

    Gilbert was in my ‘top 7’. That is a fantastic study and has a lot of detail that you won’t find anywhere else. I didn’t add it to the top 5 because I felt there are so many good books on various Dublin periods and topics that I couldn’t definitive. I was going for personal instead. I would also agree with Prunty’s book although I am more of an eighteenth century historian so that’s again why I didn’t have her in the top.

    Thinking about this made me realise that Dublin really needs a good all round (art, urban and straight historical narrative) academic history of the modern city. David Dickson is planning to fill this void with his ‘The city of Dublin 1500-2000’, to be published by Profile Books, which is due out this year or next.


  3. Felix Larkin Says:

    Can I suggest John Bradley, Alan J. Fletcher & Anngret Simms (eds), DUBLIN IN THE MEDIEVAL WORLD: STUDIES IN HONOUR OF HOWARD B. CLARKE (Four Courts Press, 2009)? I should declare an interest, for I am a contributor – though my essay isn’t about the history of Dublin, but rather a memoir of Howard Clarke as a particularly gifted teacher. The other essays are a cornucopia of interesting angles on the medieval city, with a particularly original piece by Colm Lennon on how the 17th and 18th centuries perceived the city’s medieval past.

  4. Eoin Bairéad Says:

    And, in these eDays of eBooks and eReading, one mustn’t forget
    which has Griffith (Vol1), Ball, d’Alton, Harris & many others.

  5. irishelectionliterature Says:

    Another site that may be of interest for Dublin History is the recently started
    (Its an 1893 Thoms Directory being gradually scanned and posted with a small bit of comment)

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