A Brief History of Dublin

Aug 17, 2018

Dublin is a capital city that defies its relatively small size – boasting huge character and over 1,000 years of rich history.

The ancestral home of Guinness, these days Dublin is a thriving destination city and a vibrant place of culture and commerce.

Tourists flock to old Dubh Linn to meander along cobbled streets and sample the fabled Irish pub scene whilst the world’s largest tech companies rub shoulders in the upcoming ‘Silicon Docks’ area.

Dublin’s tumultuous past is visible everywhere one looks, from the ancient Castle to the Rebel Headquarters of the 1916 uprising.

The name “Dublin” originated from the Irish word for Black Pool, a reference to a tidal pool that gathered in the grounds that would one day become Dublin’s Castle.

The city first began to take form in the year 841, when Viking invaders settled in the area, having ousted the previous Christian residents a few years prior.

Over the next century, Dublin would emerge as the largest city in the Viking kingdom, owing to its proximity to trade routes between Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.

It wasn’t until 1171 that Dublin changed hands with the arrival of the Norman king Henry II, who turned the would-be city into the centre of English rule in Ireland.

The Castle and the city cathedral soon followed in the 12th century. Dublin life remained difficult over the next 200 years, as first Scottish king Robert the Bruce and later the Black Death swept through the capital to great loss.

English rule was tenuous at best, with the monarchy not giving much heed to Dublin. As such, the city was often the subject of vicious raids by Irish clans and local tribes who lived in the hills surrounding te city.

It was Henry VIII who undertook a retaking of Irish land in an attempt to cement English rule on the country. The entire island was eventually claimed under Tudor rule and Protestantism forced upon a predominantly Catholic nation.

The English were not well liked. Tension fizzled away on the streets of Dublin, especially during the Nine Years War and the Irish Rebellion of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Dublin proved to be something of a microcosm compared to the wider Irish society, however. Protestantism took hold and grew as the central religion and with it, the city population. By 1700, Dublin was the second largest city in the British Empire.

It only grew further over the course of the 1800s, as victims of the Great Famine headed to Dublin en masse to escape the struggles and starvation of the Irish countryside.

Over a million people died in the Great Famine, especially during the later years of the 1840s. Ireland lost near 25% of its population due to death or emigration and the island’s population figures have never risen to their pre-famine figures since. The role of the British during the famine years has remained a contentious political issue and galvanised Irish nationalist movements as the nation turned on its colonial occupiers.

Nevertheless, Dublin’s population stood around 400,000 by the arrival of the 1900’s. Much of the city remained in poverty, however, with large-scale slums spreading out from around the capital’s dockland areas. Anti-British sentiment continued to be popular across the country and by 1914 a series of violent uprisings led to the eventual creation of the Irish Free State, with the majority of Ireland breaking free from British rule.

The Easter Uprising of 1916 saw 1250 armed republicans seize key areas of the city and engage the stationed British troops in combat that lasted for almost a week. Much of the city centre was damaged by shelling, with around 450 dead. In 1919, the newly formed Irish Republican Army began a two-year campaign against British forces in a War of Independence.

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Peace arrived in 1923 following the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the ending of infighting between warring factions of the former IRA, guaranteeing a 26-county Irish state to be governed solely under Irish rule. Dublin became capital of the Irish Free State.

Dublin enjoyed much growth during the 20th century, becoming capital of the Irish Republic in 1949. Economic investment from abroad and a fast-growing tourism industry turned the city into a European destination, both for business and holidays.

These days, Dublin is a premier spot on the European circuit, an EU base for some of the world’s largest companies, and a fast-growing centre of culture with a bright future ahead of it.

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