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83 Partition and Civil War, 1911 to 1926 By the beginning of the twentieth century, division had emerged as the primary motif of Irish society. There were many reasons, both economic and social, for this, but their impact was to divide Catholic from Protestant both psychologically and geo­ graphi­ cally. The last all-­ Ireland census occurred in 1911, as Partition was to follow in 1921. The next census took place in both parts of the newly divided island in 1926. From a census perspective, however , 1911 can be regarded as a new beginning, as, despite the fact that since then there have been two separate censuses, sometimes taken in different years, these enumerations provide a number of advantages over those that preceded 1911. The main advantage is that more spatial detail is provided on the geographies of religion that, along with many other variables, are reported at the urban and rural district levels. As described in chapter 1, this provides more districts and also shows the difference between urban areas and their rural counterparts. Between 1911 and 1926, therefore, we have more geo­ graphi­ cal detail than was previously available to explore what was the sec­ ond period of major trauma in modern Irish history. Partition was the culmination of the increasingly incompatible geographies brought about by economic developments and social changes particularly associated with identity and religion. These polarized the po­ liti­ cal arena as Irish nationalism became increasingly irreconcilable with unionism. The consequences had a strongly sectarian character: the desire for a sustainable Protestant majority was a major factor behind the shape of the newly formed North­ ern Ireland, which was to remain part of the United Kingdom, while a newly independent Free State set off on its own path. Population Divergence: Standing Alone The period between the censuses of 1911 and 1926 was the last in which the population of the island of Ireland as a whole would decline, marking the end of a trend that had lasted for half a century.1 Thereafter, the population of the island would increase, albeit slowly, through­ out the rest of the first half of the twentieth century. Within this period, however, there were different population trajectories between the newly created North­ ern Ireland and the Free State. These trajectories had been developing since at least 1891, but Partition made them plain for all to see. At the start of the twentieth century the south of Ireland’s demographic crisis was already a source of grave concern, but, at least for the time being, Irish nationalists could lay the blame for that crisis at Westminster’s door. They argued that the 6 Troubled Geographies 84 south’s failure to industrialize was a result of mismanagement on the part of the British government and that the continued population hemorrhage was a direct consequence of a policy of inaction.2 The news in 1911 that, as a consequence of its industrial expansion, Belfast had overtaken Dublin as the largest city in Ireland only served to reinforce this belief.3 If the growth rates of the north­ ern and south­ ern capitals were to be metaphors for the economic well-­ being of the wider areas, then the fig­ ures provided a depressing outlook for Dublin and its hinterland. Figure 6.1 shows the population growth in the two cities between 1861 and 1926. Belfast grew phenomenally in the late nineteenth century, while Dublin stagnated or even declined. From 1891 population growth did begin to pick up in Dublin, but this was due in no small measure to an ongoing process of generously redrawing its boundaries.4 Thus, by 1911 Dublin had been eclipsed economically and demographically by its north­ ern rival and was left trading on the bygone glories of the Georgian era as its plaintive claims to being sec­ ond city of the British Empire sounded increasingly hollow.5 The maps in fig­ure 6.2 show the population densities of rural and ur­ ban districts across the island in 1911 and 1926. There is little discernible difference between the two dates according to these maps, and it is only by comparing the populations directly at district level for each date that we can gauge population trends during this period at the local scale. Figure 6.3 0 50,000 100,000 150,000 200,000 250,000 300,000 350,000 400,000 450,000 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1926 Population Year Belfast* Dublin† Fig. 6.1. Population change...


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