Search this website:

This web page location:

home page  >   Europe  >   Ireland



Irish independence, British Commonwealth of Nations, popular vote, great famine, Irish Free State

Deeper web pages:

>  Land and Resources

>  People and Society

>  Culture

>  Economy

>  Government

>  History

Ireland (Irish Eire), country in northwestern Europe occupying most of the island of Ireland, the second largest of the British Isles. The Republic of Ireland lies to the west of Great Britain, the largest island in the archipelago. It is separated from Great Britain to the east by the North Channel and the Irish Sea, and to the southeast by Saint George’s Channel. The western and southern shores of Ireland meet the North Atlantic Ocean. Ireland’s only land border is with Northern Ireland, a province of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to the northeast. Ireland has an area of 70,273 sq km (27,133 sq mi). The capital and largest city is Dublin.

Ireland’s vivid green landscapes have earned it the title Emerald Isle. Traditionally, most Irish people made their living farming the land. Since the 1950s, energetic industrialization policies have promoted manufacturing, which, along with services, now dominates Ireland’s economy. In 1973 Ireland was admitted into the European Community (EC), and it is now a member of the European Union (EU). Since the 1960s Ireland has undergone a period of vigorous economic growth and rapid social change.

Between the 12th and 17th centuries, England gradually extended its control over Ireland. Ireland became an integral part of the United Kingdom by the Act of Union of 1800. In the 1840s the Irish potato crop, a staple food, was destroyed by disease, leading to a great famine that killed nearly 1 million people and forced many others to leave their homeland. During the late 19th century a movement for Irish independence gathered momentum, and after a bitter war the United Kingdom agreed to partition the island. In 1921 the northeastern portion of Ireland became Northern Ireland, a province of the United Kingdom. The remainder of Ireland became self-governing in 1922 with the establishment of the Irish Free State, a dominion within the British Commonwealth of Nations.

In 1937 the Free State’s name changed to Eire (pronounced AIR-uh, a Gaelic word for Ireland) after the adoption of a new constitution by popular vote. In 1949, following passage of the Republic of Ireland Act, Ireland severed its links to the British Commonwealth and declared itself a republic. Today, the country is commonly referred to as the Republic of Ireland to set it apart from Northern Ireland. Ireland has sought to promote the eventual reunification of the island of Ireland.


For younger readers

Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine. Houghton Mifflin, 2001. For readers in grades 6 through 12.

Blashfield, Jean F. Ireland. Children's Press, 2002. In the Enchantment of the World series, for readers in grades 4 to 8.

Heaney, Marie. The Names upon the Harp: Irish Myth and Legend. Scholastic, 2000. For middle school and high school readers.

Ireland … in Pictures. Lerner, 1997. For readers in grades 5 to 8.

Lyons, Mary E., ed. Feed the Children First: Irish Memories of the Great Hunger. Atheneum, 2002. For readers in grades 4 to 8.

Pomeray, J. K. Ireland. Chelsea House, 1998. For readers in grades 4 to 7.

Spencer, Shannon. Ireland. Gareth Stevens, 2000. For readers in grades 4 to 6.

Irish literature

Deane, Seamus, ed. The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing. 3 vols. Norton, 1992. Comprehensive anthology with excellent bibliographies.

Gonzalez, Alexander G., ed. Modern Irish Writers: A Bio-Critical Sourcebook. Greenwood, 1997. Covers more than 70 authors.

Hogan, Robert and others, eds. Dictionary of Irish Literature. Rev. ed. Greenwood, 1996. Reference for Gaelic and modern Anglo-Irish literature.

Kiberd, Declan. Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation. 3d ed. Harvard University Press, 1996, 1997. Applies post-colonial theory to Irish literature.

Mahony, Christina Hunt. Contemporary Irish Literature: Transforming Tradition. St. Martin's Press, 1998. A good initiation into the works of the newer Irish writers.

Welch, Robert, ed. The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature. Oxford University Press, 1996. Useful reference source in one volume.

Ireland: History

Black, Jeremy. A History of the British Isles. St. Martin's, 1996. The history of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, emphasizing their national differences.

Garvin, Tom. 1922, the Birth of Irish Democracy. St. Martin's, 1996. An examination of the political history of Ireland, focusing on the reasons for its success as a democracy.

Kee, Robert. The Green Flag. 3 vols. Penguin, 1989. Detailed history of Irish nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Knox, Oliver. Rebels and Informers: Stirrings of Irish Independence. St. Martin's, 1997. Studies the Society of United Irishmen, from its foundation in 1791 to the Irish Rebellion in 1798.

O'Brien, Jacqueline. Ancient Ireland: From Prehistory to the Middle Ages. Oxford University Press, 1996. A study of Ireland's ancient monuments, including forts, tombs, castles, and churches.

Thomas, Colin. Historical Dictionary of Ireland. Scarecrow, 1997. Entries include people, institutions, events, language, literature, religion, and politics.

Ireland: Politics, Society, and Culture

Ardagh, John. Ireland and the Irish: Portrait of a Changing Society. Viking Penguin, 1997. An account of the changes in Ireland over the past 40 years, based on the author's observations and interviews with the Irish people.

Boylan, Henry. A Dictionary of Irish Biography. 2nd ed. St. Martin's, 1988. Brief biographies of 1,300 distinguished deceased Irish persons.

Brown, Terence K. Ireland: A Social and Cultural History, 1922 to the Present. Cornell University Press, 1990. An examination of influences, such as the Gaelic language revival movement and the Catholic Church, on Irish politics and culture from 1922 to 1979.

De Breffny, Brian. The Houses of Ireland: Domestic Architecture from the Medieval Castle to the Edwardian Villa. Thames & Hudson, 1985. Generously illustrated.

Garvin, Tom. 1922, the Birth of Irish Democracy. St. Martin's, 1996. An examination of the political history of Ireland, focusing on the reasons for its success as a democracy.

Hudson, Kenneth. The Cambridge Guide to the Historic Places of Britain and Ireland. Cambridge University Press, 1989. Photographs with commentary on 1,500 cathedrals, houses, archaeological sites, and more.

McRedmond, Louis, gen. ed. Modern Irish Lives: Dictionary of 20th Century Irish Biography. St. Martin's, 1996. Biographies of more than 1,400 Irish men and women.

O'Toole Fintan. The Ex-Isle of Erin. New Island, 1997. Discusses topics such as Irish politics, culture, and dance, and how Ireland fits into the global society.


Graham, Brian, B.A., Ph.D. Professor of Geography, University of Ulster, and Director of the Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages. Author of In Search of Ireland.

Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation.

Article key phrases:

Irish independence, British Commonwealth of Nations, popular vote, great famine, Irish Free State, Act of Union, northwestern Europe, North Channel, staple food, Republic of Ireland, Irish people, British Commonwealth, Saint George, Irish Sea, North Atlantic Ocean, Eire, European Community, archipelago, largest island, British Isles, dominion, new constitution, self-governing, European Union, United Kingdom of Great Britain, momentum, largest city, homeland, establishment, Northern Ireland, centuries, capital, people, England, Dublin, control, adoption, United Kingdom, island, services, century, economy, disease, Today, province, country, east, area, manufacturing, movement, living, links, member

Search this website: