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Irish Historic Town Atlas


Figure 1: Artist’s impression of Dublin, looking north c1000, similar image included in Irish Town Atlas 11, Dublin Part 1.

The Irish Historic Town Atlas (IHTA) Project was established in 1981 and is part of a wider European Scheme. The catalyst for the European scheme was surely the aftermath of the Second World War and ‘the destruction of large parts of the urban fabric’.[1]





In 1955, the International Commission for the History of Towns issued guidelines for the preparation of historic towns’ atlases with the aim of documenting the development of the European town from the Middle Ages to the present day. This process was undertaken by providing maps and other source material as a basis for research in all aspects of European urbanism.


By 1979, eighty-one town atlases were developed, seventy-one from Germany, eight from Great Britain and two from Finland. Forty years later 574 town atlases have been developed, spanning nineteen countries. [2] Ireland’s involvement followed an interdisciplinary symposium on 'Irish towns and medieval Europe', organised in 1978 by the Board of Medieval Studies in University College, Dublin. The concept of an Irish historic town’s atlas was first publicly discussed following a lecture by Heinz Stoob from Münster who spoke about the German towns’ atlas project. Three years later, in June 1981 the Council of the Royal Irish Academy agreed to publish the Irish Historic Towns Atlas and to establish it as one of its research projects. To date, Ireland has contributed twenty-nine atlases with the latest covering Drogheda written by Ned McHugh.[3]


Whilst the town atlases are available to purchase in book and CD-ROM format they are also available online, in a streamlined format. The digital editions include the full text (essay, topographical information, bibliography, appendices, and notes) for each town or city, as well as select maps. The three key or core maps are included with their associated legend sheet. Purchasing a book and compact disc however entitles you to a far more substantial archive. For example, the Galway atlas traces the growth and development of the city ‘from its origins as an Anglo-Norman borough and seaport. Over 30 loose, large-format pages reproduce old maps, plans and views, alongside reconstructions and thematic maps to help tell the story of Galway in a visual way. An accompanying text section includes an explanatory essay and historical gazetteer with over 2,500 entries on features of the townscape such as streets, schools, town walls, mills etc. Also included is a CD-ROM where the text is word searchable and the maps and images are in high resolution allowing for detailed examination.’[4]



Figure 3: Irish Historic Towns Atlas, Galway.

Explore the online digital content at https://www.ria.ie/chronological-listing-available-townscities before you decide to purchase the full version.

The full listing of town atlases available, in chronological order:






Forthcoming atlases include: Ballyshannon, Cahir, Carlow, Cashel, Cavan, Clonmel, Cork, Dungarvan, Loughrea, Naas, Newry, Roscommon, Tralee, Tullamore, Waterford and Westport.[5]




If you interested in further photographs of the devastation of Europe after the Second World War and the subsequent reconstruction go to http://tonyvaccaro.studio/ or http://tonyvaccarofilm.com/


For full listing of European historic town atlases https://www.uni- muenster.de/imperia/md/content/staedtegeschichte/portal/europaeischestaedteatlanten/european_towns_atlases_bearb_updated_sept_2019.pdf

[1] https://www.uni-muenster.de/Staedtegeschichte/en/portal/staedteatlanten/Projekt.html


[2] http://www.historictownsatlas.org.uk/sites/historictownsatlas/files/attachments/imcos153_european_atlas_project_report.pdf


[3] https://www.ria.ie/drogheda-0


[4] https://www.ria.ie/galway


[5] https://www.ria.ie/research-projects/irish-historic-towns-atlas/about-publications


#Irishtowns #IrishMaps #RIA

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