Belfast: The Emerging City 1850-1914


Olwen Purdue (Ed.)

In 1613, Belfast was granted its Royal Charter as a borough. Three hundred years later, Belfast was a city of international importance. Focusing on the people of the city, this book reveals the rich and varied experiences of life in the emerging city.


Categories: , ,


In 1613, the small settlement of Belfast, with a population of about 1000, was granted its Royal Charter as a borough. Three hundred years later, Belfast had emerged as a city of international importance. With one of the world’s largest ports, it enjoyed a brief spell as Ireland’s largest urban centre and was a major player in the British industrial scene.

Unique in being an Irish city with a self-consciously British identity, the city revelled in, and in many ways depended upon, its central role within the British Empire. This attractive book celebrates and explores an exciting period in the city’s history – 1850-1914 was Belfast’s own Belle Époque. By focusing on the people of the city – those who built it, lived in it, visited it, worked in it and governed it – the book presents a kaleidoscope of snapshots which combine to reveal the rich and varied experiences of life, both temporal and spiritual, in the emerging city.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Markets and Messages: Linenopolis Meets the World by Edwin James Aiken and Stephen A. Royle

Chapter 2: Belfast: The Rise and Fall of Civic Culture? by Sean Connolly

Chapter 3: ‘Big Vision City’: The Physical Transformation of Belfast by Provincial Architects, 1870–1910 by Paul Harron

Chapter 4: Reading Shakespeare at 22 University Square by Pamela Emerson

Chapter 5: The Belfast Natural History Society in the Nineteenth Century: A Communication Hub by Ruth Bowman Bayles

Chapter 6: ‘A Country for Young Men (Or Two Quacks and a Son of Dust)’ by Glenn Patterson

Chapter 7: A City ‘on the rise’: Travel and Tourism in Nineteenth-Century Belfast by Éadaoin Agnew

Chapter 8: ‘a noble church in the most Catholic quarter of a bitterly Protestant and Presbyterian city’: The Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, Clonard, West Belfast by Caroline M. McGee

Chapter 9: Edwardian Belfast: Marriage, Fertility and Religion in 1911 by Liam Kennedy, Lucia Pozzi and Matteo Manfredini

Chapter 10: ‘The family wage’: a factor in migration? by Lesley E. E. Donaldson

Chapter 11: Migration in Belfast: trajectories, letters, voices by Patrick Fitzgerald, Brian Lambkin and Johanna Devlin Trew

About the Author


Olwen Purdue is Professor of Modern Social History at Queen’s University Belfast, where she is also Director of the Centre for Public History. An expert on the social history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Ireland, Professor Purdue is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a Director of the Irish Museums Association and a Governor of the Linen Hall Library. She was historical advisor for Titanic Belfast and has made numerous TV appearances in her capacity as an expert on Irish social history.

You may also like…