Irish history and historians on Wikipedia

By Juliana Adelman

A few years ago some historians of science decided that they ought to embrace Wikipedia.  Instead of worrying about whether it was accurate, they were going to use their expertise to try to make it as accurate as possible for topics within their expertise.  There is a special Wiki devoted to this process which you can see here.  If you are anything like me, you tend to use Wikipedia to look up things that you know nothing about.  They tend not to be topics associated with your research, but more things that you are curious about.  Wikipedia, used with a very large pinch of salt, can sometimes point the way to finding reliable sources.  If you do any teaching you quickly realise that students view it in a similar way. They use Wikipedia to look up things that they don’t know anything about.  The problem is, what they don’t know anything about is probably their essay topic.  It may sound radical, but I think it’s time that we embraced Wikipedia and just tried to improve it.  Maybe if we added appropriate references to books then people would go and look at them, too.  If we view Wikipedia as a portal to a subject then it can be a positive thing.  With this in mind, I’ve gathered a few links on Irish history and historians and now I throw down the gauntlet to you all to go and make them better.  Also, you may wish to add other topics and persons.  I’ve just gone through some obvious ones off the top of my head.  Many of them are fairly good already:

Early Medieval Ireland

Norman Ireland

Early Modern Ireland

Modern Ireland (no such page)

History of the Republic of Ireland

Irish Free State

The Great Irish Famine

The Acts of Union 1800

Protestant Ascendancy

The Plantation of Ulster  (Also, Plantations of Ireland but no separate page for Munster)

The Irish Rebellion of 1641  (There is no page for the 1641 Depositions)

Robert Emmett

Wolfe Tone

Daniel O’Connell

Oliver Cromwell (This one even has a bit of historiography on Cromwell and Ireland)

Michael Collins

Church of Ireland

Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police

The Pale

Check the List of Irish Historians and see who should be added!

40 Responses to “Irish history and historians on Wikipedia”

  1. Póló Says:

    I’m not sure if this is on or off topic.

    Anyway, I have been involved in local history research in the Killiney area since the 1970s. I have recently got re-involved in the area both because of giving a talk in Pearse St. in 2008 and also through Niall O’Donoghue who has resored Tower No.7 (south).

    Wikipedia have a section on Irish Martello Towers and when I dipped into it last year I found that, even in relation to the fortifications in Killiney Bay alone, there were many gaps.

    So I took my courage in my hands and did a big editing job on all those aspects of the entry that touched on Killiney Bay.

    It was great fun and I learned some new wiki-skills, including facing down one of their sweeper editors who kept changing one part of my entry, making a mess of it because [s]he didn’t understand the background.

    Incidentally there is a fantastic exhibition on the Martello Towers of Dublin Bay in the Dún Laoghaire County Hall (old Town Hall) running till the end of August.

    Niall’s Tower

    Wiki entry

    My talk

  2. scarndt Says:

    I think that this is a very intriguing topic. Personally I always read the Wikipedia entry on the subject that I am teaching as a means of judging student response. It is amazing the number of times that specific phrases or comments from the entry make their way into student presentations, discussions, and essays. However instead of lamenting the state of student research, it might be more constructive to embrace the technology by providing accurate and scholarly information to our students through Wikipedia. Not only will that increase the specific information available to the general public, but it will allow us to target our students through another form of media, one in which they regularly and willingly go to for information. This could be some new form of guerrilla teaching. Also as a researcher it is a good way of getting your work out to millions of readers who you would otherwise never reach. You have now inspired me to start trawling those pages looking for opportunities to add new and useful information.

  3. puesoccurrences Says:

    @Pol: thanks for those links! I had been aware of the Martello tower exhibition before and I really must try to go have a look.

    @scarndt: I like the concept of ‘guerrilla teaching’! I think you’re exactly right, it’s just a different way to target students and possibly more useful than making up handouts. I also think that if we are at least aware of the information on Wikipedia (and demonstrate to students that we are) they may not be as tempted to lift essay responses from the internet. Sometimes I feel that by dismissing the internet as a source we suggest that we never use or read it ourselves and therefore wouldn’t have a clue if they copied an entire essay from somewhere on the web.

    Please let us know if you update any pages and how you find the experience!

  4. Terry McDermott Says:

    Some of the historians interviewed by Pues claimed NEVER to have looked at wikipedia!

  5. juliana Says:

    Yes they did. Some of them were probably telling the truth…

  6. Ida Says:

    The concept of guerrilla teaching is genius.

    Wikipedia entries for historic sites also have the advantage of attracting tourists to the sites, although I am not expecting a big rush any time soon to one of my favourites, Oughter Ard, the beautiful burial site in north Kildare of Arthur Guinness. Well worth a visit if you are in the area. See

  7. bjg Says:

    See also my page on Uncle Arthur’s resting-place


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