Dublin’s legacy stretches back over a millennium of history, change and development. The first known settlement here was Áth Cliath, which took its name from a major ford across the tidal River Liffey. Around the sixth century, a monastery named Duiblinn (Irish for ‘blackpool’) was founded here, where Vikings eventually arrived.

After the Anglo-Norman invasion in 1170, Dublin became the capital of the English Lordship of Ireland and was populated extensively with settlers from England and Wales.

The early 16th century was a turbulent time when King Henry VIII’s split with the church led to the closure of monasteries and the destruction of religious institutions with papal ties. This brought about a revolution in landholding in the city, including the adaptation of All Saints into Trinity College, Ireland’s first university.

By the end of the seventeenth century, Dublin was the capital of the Kingdom of Ireland, ruled by the Protestant New English minority. In order to exert more control over the Catholic majority in Ireland, the oppressive Penal Laws were implemented vigorously during the Georgian Period. By 1700, the population had surpassed 60,000, making it the second largest city in the British Empire.

old Dublin map

Old map of Dublin (circa 1610)

After the 1800 Act of Union, much of Ireland’s governing class, aristocracy and gentry left Dublin for London or travelled back to their Irish estates. Dublin slowly became more distinctly middle class and mercantile. Parliament House was sold to the Bank of Ireland (which remains there to this day). Smaller houses were constructed, this time for merchants, doctors, lawyers and bankers. The city centre became the place where business was done, but where the destitute lived; while the glorious Victorian suburbs emerged as the preferred areas to set up home.

Politics

The politics of 19th-century Ireland were characterised by constitutional, social and revolutionary struggle – such as the campaign to repeal the Act of Union and restore self-government. Later, the Home Rule movement under Charles Stewart Parnell eventually led to the culmination of modern Irish political history and the struggle for independence playing out on the very streets of Dublin. The 1916 Rising, the Irish War of Independence (1919), the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922 and the Civil War the following year all left their mark on the city. The destroyed areas were rebuilt and Dublin became a capital once again. The Irish government still sits in Dublin today, in Leinster House on Kildare Street in the city centre.

Leinster House

Leinster House

Today

Today, Dublin is a vibrant European capital city. With over 520,000 people living here and a metropolitan population of nearly two million, its history and heritage is very much valued as the heart of this thriving, modern city. Its medieval streetscape is faithfully preserved around the cobbled streets of Temple Bar, and stretches of the old city walls can still be found in Wood Quay and at St Audoen’s Arch.

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