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Dublin: 12°C Wednesday 30 September 2020

New maps use parish records to show wealth in 14th-century Ireland

The work offers new insights into English control of Ireland during this period.

Chevallier Trinity researcher Chris Chevallier. Source: TCD

TRINITY COLLEGE DUBLIN researchers have revealed the distribution of wealth in Ireland during the 14th century in a series of maps that offer new insights into the economic and political culture of the time. 

The maps are based on papal taxation records and illustrate how Ireland changed during the first half of the 14th century. These records capture the varying values of parish incomes during this period. 

In particular, the work captures the economic and political impact of both the Bruce invasion of Ireland in 1315, when Edward Bruce of Scotland claimed the High Kingship of Ireland, as well as the Great European famine of 1315-17. 

The research was carried out by Dr Chris Chevallier for his PhD in Trinity’s Department of Geography. In total, the data gathered by Chevallier has been used to create over 50 maps that highlight the differing cultural and environmental features of Ireland at the time. 

Map A Map A shows valuations for eastern and central Ulster between 1302 -07. Source: TCD

“The final maps reflect efforts to provide accurate historical context and meet a high degree of scientific rigour. We now have a database that can illustrate multifaceted insights into medieval Ireland – even at the local level, for almost all the island,” Chevallier said. 

Some of the major findings of the research include the fact during the 14th century high degrees of wealth stretched as far west as Mullingar – showing how far Dublin’s economic influence stretched as the centre of English rule in Ireland. 

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Map B Map B shows valuations of south-west Ireland between 1302-07. Source: TCD

The work also reveals that Kilkenny, Lismore and south-east Limerick were hotspots of wealth – this provides more evidence that the south-east was akin to something of a “second Pale” in Ireland. 

Maps from the study show that while English colonial control in some regions was stronger than expected, it was weakened by internal frontiers and semi-independent Irish lords. 

Chevalier hopes that eventually the data can be hosted online and will be accessible to researchers and members of the public. 

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