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Dublin History

Dublin’s history spans more than 10 centuries and despite its current status as one of the world’s popular capital cities, it had very modest beginnings.

Although evidence exists that Celtic traders arrived in Dublin in the second century, the first invasion of Dublin was carried out in 837 by Norsemen from Scandinavia. The first official sign of settlement

is by Norman Vikings in 938 A.D. Artifacts and old constructions of this period have been uncovered near Wood Quay. Various warriors, especially the Danes, tried their hand at taking over Dublin over the next three centuries.

In the 17th century, Dublin was a small, walled medieval town in shambles. But in 1649, after the English Civil Wars, Oliver Cromwell took over Dublin and Protestant refugees from the European continent poured into the city at a remarkable rate. Dublin grew both in population and in wealth and the city experienced its first prosperous period during the 18th century when it became the second city of the British Empire.

English nobility moved into Dublin and the city’s cultural sphere flourished. The luxurious homes along Merrion and Fitzwilliam Squares were designed in the Georgian style, named after the reign of England’s three George’s. The neoclassic homes were decorated with wood paneled salons and lemon-yellow chintz borders. But this glorious period was short-lived as nobility moved out of Dublin practically overnight after London was once again named the political center for the United Kingdom.

The 19th century brought agitation and political turmoil to Dublin. Daniel O’Connell was the city’s first lord mayor and introduced Catholic Emancipation in 1829. His statue stands on the street that bears his name. This success was followed by the famine in the late 1840s caused by the potato blight that devastated much of southern and western Ireland.

The city’s desire to gain its independence from British rule came to a head in the 20th century with various political battles like the Easter Uprising of 1916 and the Civil War that began in 1921. During the Civil War, two architectural masterpieces, the Four Courts and original Custom House, were destroyed and rebuilt during the 1920s. A period of conservatism began after war the war ended a decade later. It wasn’t until 1972 when Ireland emerged from its isolation and joined the European Economic Council (EEC), which proved to be a major turning point for Dublin’s economy.

Dublin’s recent history, specifically in the last 25 years, is what is most exciting. During the 1980s, Dublin once again looked at cultural influences as a means to announce itself to the rest of the world. Musicians like Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats, Sinead O’Connor and U2, still Ireland’s largest musical export, charged the British and American music scenes.

The 1990s were the start of improved economic fortune and revitalization. Down-and-out areas of the city like Temple Bar, the Grand Canal Docks and parts of the Northside have been transformed into lively spots frequented by tourists from all over the world. Chic restaurants, elegant shops and art galleries have popped up all over the city.

It will be interesting to see how Dubliner’s will handle the slowing down of the city’s recent economic upswing- bring it back up to speed or experience a period of adjustment like London did. Only time will tell…

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