A New History of Dublin

Posted on: 06 May 2014

'Dublin: The making of a capital city' has just been published by Profile Books (and, in a special limited edition, by the Lilliput Press). Written by David Dickson, a Professor in Modern History in the School of Histories and Humanities, Trinity College Dublin, the book provides the first comprehensive survey of the city's history to appear in more than thirty years. It brings together in a single volume the work of many dozens of historians, geographers and archaeologists. A North American edition will be published by Harvard University Press in the autumn.

Close to Joyce's Ulysses in length, the book traces the unfolding, not of one day, but of some 1,400 years spanning the lives of perhaps fifty generations of Dubliners. It reveals how much Dublin was always a hybrid place, a melting pot and sometimes a collision point for Viking, Gaelic and Anglo-Norman settlers, for New English and Ulster Scots, Huguenot and Jewish immigrants, and it argues that much of the city's cultural singularity, both within Ireland and globally, was the result of this hybridity.

The principal focus of the book is on the post-medieval emergence of Dublin as an internationally significant city, evolving from seventeenth-century court town, parliamentary metropolis in the eighteenth century, politically and religiously polarized town of the nineteenth century to the embattled centre of a new nation in the twentieth. It concludes with a magisterial analysis of the vast city-region that had taken shape by 2000.

Councillor Dermot Lacey, launching the book in Dublin City Library in Pearse Street, reflected on the uncertainty as to what actually constitutes 'Dublin' in the twenty-first century — compared to past certainties as to where and what the city was. He described the new volume as "an enormous contribution to understanding the city of Dublin".  Professor Mary Daly, President of the Royal Irish Academy, suggested that the book would bring about "the integration of the history of Dublin into the history of Ireland", and that it would help redress the general failure to recognize the centrality of city life in the making of modern Ireland. 

The author, Professor David Dickson, has supervised many research projects on Dublin history since the 1980s and he is one of the coordinators of the Dublin History Research Network, an interdisciplinary collaboration between TCD and St. Patrick's College Drumcondra, which organises workshops, conferences and an online research directory relating on all aspects of post-medieval Dublin and its hinterland (see www.dublinhistoryresearch.ie).