Kevin Whelan considers a brief history of Irish maps, and how they can be used to document history from below. Maps are factual, but they also record peoples’ thoughts and impressions.
Early maps are almost pictorial: from the first printed stand-alone map of Ireland in 1488; to the maps of the cartographer John White, who documented Raleigh’s Cork estates, and accompanied his patron to the colony of Roanoke where he painted some of the earliest detailed ‘accounts’ of Native Americans.
The move to more scientific representational maps begins with Petty in the 1650s.
In the second quarter of the 1800s, the Ordnance Survey maps provide the finest national coverage of any nation, documenting every house, forge, mill, school, private and institutional building. By overlaying a modern O.S. map, on an earlier edition, we can often ‘recover’ details since lost, or not easily found in other historical documents.
Kevin Whelan is the Director of the Keough-Notre Dame Centre in Dublin. He has been a visiting professor at New York University, Boston College and Concordia University (Montreal). He is a prolific author.
Listen to his podcast here now.