A Minute History Of Dublin

Dublin is the capital and biggest city of Ireland. It is an old city with lots of culture and it has always been Ireland’s most prominent city as well. Famous for its rich history and great craic (Irish for ‘fun’), Dublin is the perfect place for a weekend away. But what should you know about Dublin’s history before heading over there and wandering in a museum for hours? Here is your minute history of Dublin:


The beautiful city of Dublin dates backs over 1,000 years. It most likely started to take shape around the 9th century, when Vikings arrived and intermingled with a small Christian settlement. The city is located in the east of the island and has expanded around the river Liffey.


Dublin countryside

Dublin Castle’s foundations were built in early medieval times. It has been adapted and extended several times in history and is still today in use for ceremonial events, so make sure to check if the Castle is open when you plan your visit.

After three centuries of Viking rule, Irish kings took over. They remained in power until the 11th century when the Norman Invasion reached the southern shores of Ireland. These English citizens mixed quickly with the locals and completely adopted Irish culture and tradition. Only in a small area close to modern day Dublin, did the English attained direct rule and control.

From this small area around Dublin, called the Pale, the English attempted to gain more direct control from the 16th century onwards. In King Henry VIII’s era and that of his successors, there was a big emphasis on religion. England had just become Anglican and Ireland had a strong tradition of Catholicism.

From Dublin, attempts were made to make Ireland more English and more loyal to the English crown by having Protestant English settlers move to the Irish countryside. These missions are known as the Plantations. They caused huge tensions between the native Irish and the new English settlers.

Small uprising and great wars broke out between the English and the Irish, and among the Irish themselves in the centuries that followed. The ancient Dublin castle had become the heart of English – and later British – power in Ireland and it would remain so till 1922.

Dublin typing

In the 19th century, Irish culture flourished, especially when it came to literature and poetry. Irish play writer and poet Oscar Wilde was born in Dublin in 1854. Even though he spent most of his life living in England, Wilde is considered a key figure in Irish history. You can find a statue of him in Dublin on Merrion Square, near his old family house. Another famous writer and poet from Dublin was William Butler Yeats (W.B. Yeats). Besides working on literature, he was also a senator in the 1920s and he won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923.



In the 20th century, Ireland went through some big changes and Dublin played an essential role. Tensions had been rising for decades under the influence of nationalism. The Irish had had enough of British rule in Dublin.  This led to the 1916 Easter Rising. Different Irish groups came to Dublin to fight for independence. The General Post Office on O’Connell street became their headquarters. You can visit the Post Office today and enjoy an exhibition on the 1916 Rising that, unfortunately, ended badly for the Irish. Britain regained control of Dublin and many of the Irish revolutionaries were taken to Kilmainham Gaol, one of Europe’s most notorious prisons. Men and women were imprisoned and many were executed.

Shortly after this conflict, a War of Independence broke out. When Britain finally gave the Irish parliament a certain form of independence in 1922, Ireland plunged itself into a Civil War on the terms of this independence. The main groups that participated in this Civil War are still visible in elections and parliament today.


Dublin cycling

Dublin has a history you can easily access. The city has lately invested a lot in safe bicycle lanes and walking tours. Trinity College, in the city centre of Dublin, has a very beautiful library and possesses the Book of Kells, a 9th century version of the Evangelicals with exceptional decorations. The National Museum of Ireland has many ancient Viking artifacts but also a great exhibition on Ireland’s turbulent 20th century. In the Dublin Castle and in Kilmainham Gaol you can take tours to get even closer to history. If you wish to see even more, there are many bus trips that will take you just outside Dublin to see other historical places.

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  1. Reading about Kilmainham Gaol was quite nostalgic. We went to visit the jail when I was in 3rd year and I recall reading Joseph Plunkett’s (one of the leaders in the irish revolution) love letter to his girlfriend whom he married 7hrs before he was executed. ???

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