John Stoner's World Wide Web Resources for the Study of Irish History--A Sampler
This page is a sampler of World Wide Web resources for the study of Irish history. Its purpose is to provide online resources for use in a senior-level college course on Irish history, from ancient times to the twentieth century. The emphasis of the sources (as with the course itself) is political, while also providing cultural and anthropological background and pointers to sources for original research. It is a distillation of the results of searches conducted on a number of the major search engines, subject catalogs, and lists of links available on the Web. These searches indicated that Web sources on Irish history fall into the following major categories: primary sources (archives and online documents), genealogical resources, bibliographic information, online publications, electronic discussion lists, linguistic and anthropological information, historical case studies, and general historical sites.
Several criteria were utilized in evaluating the results of the various searches to determine which sites would be included in this list. Generally, institutional Web sites (especially educational institutions) were preferred to individual sites. This was due first to the fact that institutional sites were more likely to be permanent, and, second, that institutions could be evaluated for their partisanship or objectivity more easily than individuals. Next, sites that appeared in the results of the searches of more than one search engine were preferred to those that occurred in only one engine. Whenever possible, the broader, more inclusive sites ("meta-sites") were preferred to the more narrowly focused information sources, although sometimes one of the latter was included in order to eliminate the need for "burrowing" through one of the higher level sites. In most cases, no information older than two years was included (when this could be determined).
Located on a Web server at the Regional Technical College, Carlow, these Web pages provide narrative historical information on the Irish Rebellion of 1798. Simple and straight-forward with citations to information sources, this site is similar to the Fenian sites listed below (though less detailed). It is a good example of a historical case study of a significant period in Irish history, authored by and mounted on the Web by an academic institution.
This pages were created by History 277 (Canadian Survey) students under the direction of Professor Jay White at Western Washington. A collaborative class research project done during the 1995 fall quarter, this page focuses on the invasions of Canada by Fenians, a revolutionary group dedicated to the overthrow of British rule (the goal being to hold Canada ransom for a free Ireland). The page contains links to American and Irish Fenian history, biographical information, and related Web sources. Many of the pages indicate sources for their information. As with the 1798 Rebellion pages discussed above, this is a good example of a historical case study Web site with academic authoring and support. In addition, its links to related sites place the study in a larger historical context.
This Web site is devoted to the language and culture of the Gaels, those people who speak or did speak any of the three Gaelic languages. This site, with its broad cultural and linguistic emphasis, provides a larger cultural context to Irish history as well as links to more detailed information sources. See particularly "The Celts and the Six Celtic Languages," "General Celtic Information," and the "Soc.Culture.Celtic.FAQ" links on this page. This site or pages connected to it appeared in the searches conducted on a number the search engines.
GENUKI attempts to serve as a "virtual reference library" of genealogical information that is of particular relevance to the UK and Ireland. It is a noncommercial service provided by volunteers in cooperation with the Federation of Family History Societies and a number of its member societies. See especially the "The UK and Ireland" link. This is probably the best "meta-site" for Irish genealogical research, containing links to almost all the other genealogical sites located during the searches conducted for this project.
This a site is a commemoration of the Great Famine (Ireland 1845), a key "event" in Irish history. The famine in song, poetry, education, and history are dealt with extensively. Bibliographic information on the history of the famine is provided and, in addition, this Web site provides links to other non-famine Irish information sources, both historical and current. In terms of breadth of coverage on a single (and singular) topic in Irish history and in providing links to related Web resources, this is an excellent site.
This site provides information concerning access to the holdings of The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), Belfast. PRONI was established by the Public Records Act (Northern Ireland) in 1923 as the official repository for public records in Northern Ireland. It holds millions of documents, some dating back to the 14th through 16th centuries. This institution is a key archive for original documents concerning Irish history. While it provides no online indexes to documents, it provides useful information to the student of Irish history planning to visit the Office.
H-ALBION is a member of the H-NET Humanities OnLine initiative. H-ALBION, an electronic discussion list, encourages scholarly discussion of British and Irish history and makes available bibliographical, research, teaching aids, scholarly reviews of books and monographs central to the field, and to other WWW sites of interest to subscribers and browsers. This is probably the most academically rigorous of Web sites containing information and links related to Irish history. Follow especially the following links: "scholarly review," "online resources," and "links to other WWW sites."
This site was created and is maintained by Jacqueline Dana on a server at the University of Texas. The Web server is paid for with personal, not university funds, and the university is not responsible for nor does it endorse the contents of this site. This site is found in searches of all the search engines used on this topic. The general topics covered by this site are:
General Irish History
This Week in History
Northern Ireland History
Irish Republican History
Genealogical Research Links
Universities with Irish Studies
Other Links of Interest
The emphasis here is strongly political, with a contemporary focus. This site lacks some of the traditional academic efforts at "objectivity." However, it offers of the broadest coverage of Irish historical sites on the Web and is a necessary starting place.
This may be a somewhat dated (June 1995) list of electronic discussion lists relating to Ireland. However, it includes H-ALBION (see above) as well as a number of others, many regarding Irish art, music, and language. This site provides the widest access to electronic discussion lists on Ireland available on the Web.
These are bibliographies maintained at the Labyrinth, an information network providing access to electronic resources in medieval studies through a World Wide Web server at Georgetown University. See especially "H-Albion History Bibliographies," "University of Kansas Index of Medieval Studies Bibliographies," "Celtic Bibliography, " and "Old Irish and Early Christian Ireland: A Basic Bibliography." The creators and maintainers of the Labyrinth Web site are in the English Department at Georgetown; nonetheless there are ample academic historical resources available through this site.
Due to the fact that almost all the archives accessioned by the Public Record Office of Ireland before 1922 were destroyed by fire and explosion at the beginning of the Civil War in June 1922, the archives now held by the National Archives date mainly from the 19th and 20th centuries, although some date back as far as the 13th century. Despite the loss of documentary heritage suffered during the Civil War, the National Archives of Ireland (the holdings of which number some 135,000 cubic feet) is an essential starting point for anyone interested in the study of the history of Ireland. The Web site provides limited online indexes, as well as lists of sources for the study of family, genealogical, and women's history.
Martin Nilsson's Web site at the University of Lund, Sweden, provides links to the Web sites of the major political parties of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic; Irish (related) newspapers on the WWW; "non-political" organizations; and various relevant documents online. An excellent site for accessing information on the Web relevant to the current political situation in Ireland, offering access to information that spans the political spectrum.
This timeline provides a chronological outline of political developments in Northern Ireland from 1920 to 1992. This Web site is part of the University of Ulster's Northern Ireland Collection. The outline is based on information derived from the CALM (Conflict: Accumulated Literature in Multimedia) material, which was developed by Professor Seamus Dunn, Director of University of Ulster's Centre for Conflict Studies, and Professor David Bustard, Department of Computer Science University of Ulster. The outline contains links to explanatory pages and documents. This site provides a good brief overview of a complex situation.
This is a bibliography by Charles D. Wright, dated 1994. Although this bibliography also appears under Labyrinth bibliographies (above), as it was located in the searches done on most of the search engines used for this project, direct access to it is provided here.
By following Yahoo's subject hierarchy along the following path: Regional:Countries:Ireland:Culture:History, the searcher comes up with links to Web sites under the following headings (numbers in parentheses indicate how many Web sites there were under the respective heading at the time the search was last conducted (January 30, 1996)):
Irish Potato Famine (2)
Science and Technology (1)
British-Ulster Heritage Site - promoting Ulster-British Heritage and Culture.
Ireland History Archives
Northern Ireland History Collection - timeline of individuals and events since 1920 from the University of Ulster.
While certainly not comprehensive, this Yahoo site provides a quick and easy introduction to Web sites on Irish history. A good starting place.
Research Strategies and Results
The following search engines were searched for Web resources on Irish history: Alta Vista, Inktomi, Yahoo search, Lycos Index, and Open Text. In addition, the following subject catalogs and lists of links were searched: WWW Virtual Library, Yahoo Subject Catalog, and the Internet Public Library.
In the case of the search engines, all were searched using the terms "irish history." Where the search indicated that some form of word order and/or proximity indicators capabilities were available, they were used. So in Lycos, the "match all terms" and "strong match" options were chosen; in Alta Vista the advanced query was used, enclosing the search terms in quotation marks ("irish history"); and in Open Text's simple search using the "exact phrase" provided greater control than using the "followed by" option in the power search (followed by only requires that the second terms be within 80 characters of the first search term) so the former was used. Inktomi provided no proximity or word order control but it did provide (as did the others) a ranking system for the search results. Yahoo Search provided neither controls nor ranking and had the least number of hits (nonetheless, its hierarchical topic catalog produced more hits than its search engine and, as indicated above, is a good basic starting place for Web resources on Irish history). The various subject catalogs also yielded meager results and in most cases their resources had already been located via the search engines.
All the other engines returned more than 100 hits each. Depending on the total number found, the first 200 of each engine's results were reviewed, those looking promising being bookmarked. The bookmark file was then saved as a separate file. The tagging was changed so as to produce a list of the "promising hits" (a total of 120 sites) arranged by search engine. These sites were reduced to a total of 32 from which the above list was selected, using the criteria outlined in the Introduction above.
This search indicated the overwhelming volume and the widely varying quality of "things Irish" on the Web. For anyone searching the Web on this topic I would advise beginning with Yahoo's subject heading "Regional:Countries:Ireland:Culture:History" followed by some of the resources listed on H-ALBION's Web site.