Troubled Geographies:
A Spatial History of Religion and Society in Ireland

Ian N. Gregory, Niall A. Cunningham, C.D. Lloyd, Ian G. Shuttleworth and Paul S. Ell
Full text available from Indiana University Press
Figures by
Maps by
2. The Plantations
3. Pre-Famine Ireland
4. The Famine
5. Towards Partition
6. Partition & Civil War
7. Continuous division
8. Towards the Celtic Tiger
9. Northern Ireland, 1971-2001
10. Conflict & death

1. Geography, religion and society: A spatial history

The visitor to Northern Ireland, even subsequent to the Peace Process, cannot help but be struck by the interplay between the symbols of religion, ethno-national identity, politics, history and geography. Flags, murals, kerbstones, parades and festivals all serve to emphasise the differences between protestant areas on the one hand, and catholics on the other. This inter-mingling of geography, religion and the wider society across Ireland dates back to the plantations of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries whose aim was specifically to set up protestant areas, loyal to the monarch in London, in catholic Ireland.

This publication explores how the geographies of religion in Ireland were laid down and have subsequently changed though the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a period that has seen traumatic events such as the Great Famine of the late 1840s, parition and the civil war in the early 1920s, and the recent Troubles in Northern Ireland. It has also seen long-term, more gradual, but nevertheless important processes such as industrialisation, urbanisation, de-industrialisation and sub-urbanisation, all of which have influence and been influenced by the religious geographies of Ireland.

Baronies, legend
a. Baronies
Urban and rural districts, legend
Urban and rural districts
b. Urban and rural districts
Counties and provinces, legend
Urban and rural districts
c. Counties and provinces

Fig 1.1: The main administrative geographies of Ireland showing: (a) baronies, (b) rural and urban districts, and (c) counties and provinces. Note that before partition *Laois and ** Offaly were called Queen's County and King's County respectively.

The first Census of Ireland was taken in 1821 and subsequent censuses are repeated every ten years subsequently until 1911. After this there are censuses available north and south of the border for 1926, 1936/7, 1946/51, 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001/2. These provide a wealth of information about the socio-economic conditions in which the population of Ireland lived. Almost uniquely, they also contain data on religion from 1861 onwards. An 1834 royal commission provides similar data for the pre-Famine period. These sources put us in a unqiue position to explore how Ireland's religion and society have changed over this period. The main geographies used to publish these data are shown in figure 1.1.

This site tells a spatial history of Ireland's religions and society and how they have changed over time and space. It is an accompanyment to a book to be published by Indiana University Press. The web site provides most of the maps and diagrams in full colour together with some interactive maps produced using Social Explorer. It only has a cut-down version of the narrative which summarises the key points. The full narrative is available in the book. In this way we make best use of the advantages of the two publishing technologies: colour and interactivity on the electronic version, and detailed narrative arguement on paper.




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©Ian Gregory & Niall Cunningham, 2013