The postcard above was printed during the third Home Rule Crisis ca. 1912-1914. It features the Albert Memorial Tower being pulled down and replaced by a statue of John Redmond (leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party) with crown and scepter, labeled ‘Redmond Rex Hibernia.” The gigantic Poor House Annex is “Full Up” and droves of people are crowded at the Protestant Emigration Office where they can buy “Tickets for New York or Anywhere” (sponsored by the Irish state, with the green harp flag flying above). One wing of the building is dedicated space for the “Office of the Molly Maguires.” The American influence over the new Irish government and “King Redmond” is further symbolized by the American flag and ship parked at the Customs Office. Meanwhile the formerly industrial Belfast is being overtaken by pigs, chickens, and goats. Continue reading
Given my love of the history of maps, I was excited to hear a segment on the creation of Ordnance Survey maps for Ireland on the RTÉ History Show a few weeks ago.
In the 1700s, when the Williamites wanted to flush out Jacobite fugitives in Scotland, they were hampered by the fact that they had no maps of Scotland, and so they started to make some. Later, in the 1800s, when the revenue people in London wanted to list all the townlands in Ireland that might generate an income for the crown, their first job was to do a major survey of the whole country. And so, while an early generation of surveyors, the Williamites, arrived with guns, the Victorians arrived with clipboards.
You can find the full segment on the RTÉ Radio Player here:
The Ordnance Survey office was established in Ireland in 1824, intended to update land valuations for tax purposes. Under the direction of Major Thomas Colby, the survey was completed in 1846, on a scale of 6 inches to 1 mile. A large portion of the historiography is devoted to debate over the impact of the Ordnance Survey on the anglicization of Ireland, the Irish language, and Irish placenames. Continue reading
Today we’re taking a look at John Speed’s depictions of Ireland in his Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, published in 1611/1612. Speed (1552-1629), the best-known mapmaker of his era, included an overview of Ireland and maps of each province in his atlas. As I described in a previous post, Speed used previously compiled sources to inform his atlas, but made the maps and other elements himself.
R. Dudley Edwards and Mary O’Dowd noted the importance of Speed’s maps in their Sources for Early Modern Irish History, 1534-1641, writing:
Among the most ambitious projects commissioned by a London bookseller in the early seventeenth century was John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain, which appeared in 1611. Speed devoted special attention to Ireland for which he provided a general map of the country and separate provincial maps. This gives him, in the opinion of J.H. Andrews, the claim to be, in the eyes of contemporaries, the author of the definitive map as known till the mid seventeenth century in Britain and abroad. Speed’s work was based on some of the ‘regional surveys, especially in the north, as well as Mercator’s general map of 1595, and, less, happily, Boazio.’ His work included the first printed plans for the towns of Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick. As Dr. Nuala Burke pointed out, Speed’s work was not necessarily up to date. She considers, however, that Speed can be regarded as giving a ‘reasonably correct general impression of the actual early seventeenth century topography,’ though there can be errors in matters of detail.
While this was considered the definitive map of Ireland and its provinces for its time, there are biases and agendas at work in Speed’s depictions. Continue reading
In popular culture, I think there’s a tendency to shrug off the study of history as the memorisation of dates and facts. This ignores a fundamental element of history: it’s open to interpretation. Not only that, but ‘history’ tends to have been interpreted by the time it reaches its audience.
This doesn’t mean, however, that historians can say whatever they want and it will be considered ‘fact’. Continue reading
Back with more historic maps which may be useful for generating class discussion on how such sources illustrate perceptions and views of the British and Irish in the wider world.
Today we’re highlighting the first atlas to cover the British Isles as a whole, as well as the first work to make comprehensive plans of many English and Welsh towns available in print. English historian and geographer John Speed’s Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine was published in 1611/1612, with a print run of approximately 500 copies. Each of the English and Welsh counties and the four provinces of Ireland was separately depicted, along with a larger view of Scotland.
Speed used previously compiled sources to inform his Theatre, but he made the maps and other elements himself. The maps are rich with details of local history, fashions, and features, all of which would be useful in the classroom to provide a view of life in the Tudor and Jacobean eras.
With the publication of the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine, Speed was well on his way to becoming the best-known mapmaker of his era.
Cambridge University Library has a remarkable digital resource utilizing one of their five proof copies of Speed’s atlas. It can be found here.
In the midst of the second Home Rule crisis in 1893, the most prominent Irish-American newspaper, the Irish World, published this political cartoon: “The Anti-Home Rule Orange Circus Over the Water.”
Here we see Edward Saunderson, MP and leader of the Ulster unionists in Parliament, beating the Orange drum. Reverend Richard Rutledge Kane, of Belfast’s Christ Church, rips and stomps the Home Rule bill. And in the background, Prime Minister William E. Gladstone is burned in effigy.
The Irish World described the scene: “More than 5,000 persons were present at the great Orange meeting here [in Belfast] to-day. Dr. Kane, who presided, said that Ulster was prepared to defend herself to the last against the proposals of the Home Rule Bill. The men of Ulster need not feel, however, that they would be alone and unaided in the fight for their liberties. They had the sympathies of Englishmen of all classes throughout the world.
“He had received letters from military and police officers in England and Ireland and telegrams from Canada and Australia promising co-operation with the men of Ulster if the latter resorted to arms to defend their liberties against the tyranny of their historic foes. A hundred thousand Orangemen were ready to resist to the death the Home Rule Bill.”
The Irish World‘s serious tone in reporting the event contrasts with the snarling and chaotic feel to the political cartoon, with the beating of the Orange drum an annoying “circus” and distraction from what Irish nationalists considered as the larger issues at stake with Home Rule.
There I did see the houses at that end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side end of the bridge…. So down, with my heart full of trouble, to the Lieutenant of the Tower, who tells me that it begun this morning in the King’d baker’s house in Pudding-lane, and that it hath burned St. Magnus’s Church and most part of Fish-street already. So I down to the water-side, and there got a boat and through bridge, and there saw a lamentable fire…. Having staid, and in an horu’s time seen the fire rage every way, and nobody to my sight, endeavouring to quench it, but to remove their goods, and leave all to the fire.
Three hundred fifty years ago this month, the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the medieval city. Here we have the panoramic views of London created by Prague-born artist and cartographer Wenceslaus Hollar. As the British Library describes, Hollar copied a view of London that he had completed in the 1640s to illustrate London before the fire, and used knowledge gained from his official work mapping the damage to create the scene of destruction. Zooming in on the image, we can see the flattened and destroyed buildings, and St. Paul’s with its roof caved in just as described in Pepys’ famous account of the Great Fire.
Walked thence, and saw all the towne burned, and a miserable sight of Paul’s church, with all the roofs fallen, and the body of the quire fallen into St. Fayth’s; Paul’s school also, Ludgate, and Fleet-street, my father’s house, and the church, and a good part of the Temple the like.
Interesting, the British Library discusses how the panoramic view of London from the south across the Thames was a traditional depiction by artists and cartographers since the 1540s, lasting until the mid-19th century when aerial views became the more common depiction.
Hollar also created this overhead view of London. We can see the footprint of St Paul’s, and the place the fire started on Pudding Lane near London Bridge (where the monument to the Great Fire is now). Hollar moved to England in 1637 and stayed in London until 1642, when he left for Antwerp. He returned to England in 1652 and lived there until his death in 1677. He was extremely productive, creating about 2700 etchings during his life.
Christopher Wren’s plans for rebuilding the city after the fire, one of the first proposals to be submitted, utilized Hollar’s panoramic views to highlight suggested changes to the medieval city – with buildings plotted in orderly fashion, wide avenues, and open piazzas. Wren’s plans were never used, but he was of course able to make his mark on the rebuilt cityscape.
Round up of sources on the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London:
- Teaching resources at the National Archives
- List of buildings that survived from Historic UK and a similar article from the Guardian
- Museum of London’s reconstructed 17th century fire engine
- From the V&A: Conservation of a 17th century facade that survived the fire
- 350th anniversary in pictures
We staid till, it being darkish, we saw the fire as only one entire arch of fire from this to the other side of the bridge, and in a bow up the hill for an arch of above a mile long: it made me weep to see it.
Earlier this summer I looked at using maps as primary sources for class as a way to generate discussion and highlight worldviews of the time periods and cultures in which the maps were created. One of my favorite maps, and one that would be an excellent source in British History courses, is Matthew Paris’ Map of Great Britain, produced in 1250. This map is now in the British Library.
Not only is the map visually appealing, particularly in its use of color, drawings of miniature battlements and city walls, and ability to seize the imagination, it is also the oldest surviving map to show such a high level of detail and accuracy. Over 250 places are identified on the map, with Scotland clearly set apart by Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall. I particularly enjoy the depiction of the Firths of Forth and Clyde sharply cutting through Scotland to almost meet. Scotia and Wallia (with an elaborate Mount “Snaudun”) are identified by name, along with areas such as Devonia and Sufolck. The side bars identify the nearest land in each direction. London, in the bottom center of the map, appears to have all roads leading to it (notice how the towns line up above it) along with a snake-like Thames.
We can see that the land depicted on the map is distorted, but even with this it was still extremely accurate for its time. As the British Library site describes, Paris’ depiction was likely based on both travelers’ accounts and Ptolemy’s geography.
Matthew Paris was a monk at St. Alban’s Abbey in England, where he lived all of his adult life. He was an historian, writer of chronicles, and artist. Paris drew four maps of Britain, of which this is the most detailed.
Just think about the Hereford Mappa Mundi from my previous maps post. As Simon Garfield emphasizes in On the Map, Matthew Paris created his map of Great Britain about fifty years before the mappa mundi was produced, making Paris truly stand out as a unique mapmaker of his time.
One of my favorite sources to spark discussion in class, especially in courses like the Atlantic World, British Empire, and American history, are historic maps. What can maps tell us about how people at the time perceived the world around them? What did the maps prioritize in their depictions of the world? Who created them and what knowledge did they draw upon? How did these views change over time? One of the big benefits to using maps is that they are easily comparable between time periods for students. And they allow students to easily grasp just how huge of an impact the era of explorations had on European conceptions of the world around them.
Another benefit of using maps as a basis for class discussion is that it makes clear to students that people in Columbus’s time did not believe that the world was flat (this seems to be a recurring misconception).
Claudius Ptolemy produced his descriptive atlas in Alexandria in the 2nd century, which was still considered one of the best sources for knowledge of world geography by the 15th century. His atlas consisted of a huge list of descriptive coordinates for cities and other known locations, which were then interpreted by mapmakers as seen in the map at the top of the page. As can be seen, Africa and India are distorted, the Mediterranean is overly large and depicted at the center of the map, and the areas within Greece and the Roman Empire are the most accurate. Ptolemy also tended to fill empty spaces on the map with “theoretical conceptions,” rather than leaving unknown areas blank.
After the Library at Alexandria was destroyed, there was little advancement in cartography from the time of Ptolemy. Medieval maps tended to place Jerusalem at the center of the known world, and represented both geographical knowledge of the physical route to Jerusalem as well as a symbolic route for salvation. The Hereford Mappa Mundi, created ca. 1300 and housed at the Hereford Cathedral, is a T-O map with Jerusalem at the center, the East at the top, and Britain and Ireland on the bottom left. Along with cities and towns, the map depicts Biblical events, plants and animals, fantastical creatures, and classical mythology.
Another one of the most notable medieval maps was that created in 1450 by the Venetian monk and cartographer, Fra Mauro (who also has a region of the moon named after him, where Apollo 13 was supposed to land). His map was considered the most detailed and accurate of its time, including Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Atlantic. And you can see that he oriented the map with the South at the top.
And finally, we have the 1507 map created by Martin Waldseemüller, the first map to label the newly-discovered continent in the western hemisphere “America.” This map includes knowledge about the coasts of Africa and India from recent explorations and discoveries, and includes a large ocean to the east of Asia: a very early depiction of the Pacific. But the aspect which students are most responsive to is the narrow strip of land encompassing all that was known at the time about North and South America. You can see the detailed east coast and Caribbean, and the hazier depiction of land to the west.
Obviously there are many more historical maps that could be used as examples. But overall, I can’t say enough about how well students respond to maps such as these as the basis for jump-starting class discussion, having students make discoveries that you might not have noticed yourself, and, even if this might all seem rather perfunctory, I find them very fun discussions both as an instructor and for students to help understand how Europeans of different eras envisaged the world around them.
- See also: Simon Garfield, On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks (New York: Gotham, 2013).