Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 February 2009
Irish historians have been rather slow to recognize that urban history constituted a valid area for scholarly research. Publications in this field prior to 1960 were few in number, while as late as 1979 Gearoid MacNiocaill criticized the discipline for its undue bias towards three areas: the antiquarian, the topographical and geographical and the legal. This criticism retains some validity today: antiquarian or topographical publications relating to Irish towns have a flourishing popular market, but following decades of neglect the history of Irish towns and cities is being explored with an unprecedently high level of attention, while areas totally unknown are being opened up and new dimensions are emerging. In the process even comparatively recent works such as those edited by Butlin in 1977 have become thoroughly outdated, while the papers presented to the 1979 Irish Conference of Historians, which were intended to act as ‘both a framework to be consulted and a map of the way to future progress’ also present an inadequate picture of contemporary urban history scholarship. In the process of this scholarly awakening, however, Irish urban history is emerging as a discipline with an individual personality. While the directions of research are strongly influenced by work in England, the U.S. and Europe, the specific Irish preoccupations are a reflection of both mainstream Irish history and, to some extent, of contemporary Irish politics and society.
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