Historical Geography

Ireland, or �IRE, is a country of western Europe. It occupies the greater part of an island lying to the west of Great Britain, from which it is separated--at distances ranging from 11 to 120 miles (from 18 to 193 kilometres)--by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St. George's Channel. Located in the temperate zone between latitudes 5130' and 5530' N and longitudes 600' and 1030' W--as far north as Labrador or British Columbia in Canada and as far west as the West African state of Liberia--it constitutes the westernmost outpost of the Atlantic fringe of the Eurasian landmass. Ireland, which, like Great Britain, once formed part of this landmass, lies on the European continental shelf, surrounded by seas that are generally less than 650 feet (200 metres) in depth. The greatest distance from north to south in the island is 302 miles (486 kilometres), and from east to west it is 171 miles (275 kilometres). The area of the 26 counties of the republic of Ireland is 27,137 square miles (70,285 square kilometres). The capital is Dublin.

The magnificent scenery of Ireland's Atlantic coastline faces a 2,000-mile-wide expanse of ocean, and its geographic isolation has helped it to develop a rich heritage of culture and tradition that was linked initially to a separate language. The perennial concerns of the republic--emigration, cultural and political identity, and relations with Northern Ireland (that portion of the island remaining within the United Kingdom)--were augmented by economic and political problems. By the end of the 20th century, however, a prosperous economy led to a growing confidence about the country's future within the European Union (EU).

Ireland was an integral part of the United Kingdom from 1800 to 1922 when, by virtue of the Anglo-Irish Treaty of Dec. 6, 1921, the Irish Free State was established as an independent member of the British Commonwealth. A new constitution, adopted by the people in a 1937 plebiscite, declared Ireland to be "a sovereign, independent, democratic state," and the last remaining link with the Commonwealth was severed by the Republic of Ireland Act of 1948.

Of the four traditional provinces of Ireland, the republic comprises the whole of Leinster (counties Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laoighis [Laois], Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford, and Wicklow), the whole of Munster (counties Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary North Riding, Tipperary South Riding, and Waterford), the whole of Connacht (counties Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, and Sligo), and three counties (Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan) of the nine counties of Ulster. The remaining six counties of Ulster constitute Northern Ireland.

(Source: © 1999-2000 Britannica.com and Encyclop�dia Britannica, Inc.)

Historic Timeline

Listed below is a brief outline of major Irish events in history.

Date Event In History
1002-14 Brian Boru united the Irish Kings - the Irish Kingdom
1200-50 English colonists were sent to colonize Ireland
1494 The English Crown officially claimed Ireland as part of England
1549-1640 Many English and Scottish people were sent to Ireland and given estates or plantations as rewards from the King. Lands were primarily granted in the counties of Leix, Offaly, Tipperary, Wexford, Leitrim, and Longford and some in Ulster Province
1603 Scots began settling in Ulster
1641-52 Irish Rebellion
1649 Oliver Cromwell crushed the rebellion in Ireland and awarded land to Protestants. Catholics who could prove that they were not involved in the rebellion were given lands in West Clare. Some prisoners were sent to New England.
1690 Irish Parliament was established in Dublin
1720 British Parliament began to legislate Ireland. British House of Lords had rule as Irish Supreme Court
1782-93 More power is given to Irish Parliament and rights given back to Roman Catholics
1800 Ireland unites with England, Scotland to become the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
1845-49 Potato Famine -- 2 million people leave the country
1922 Irish Civil War

Selected Reading List in History




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