Victorian Athlone : the struggle to modernise an Irish Provincial Town
The Victorian era in the United Kingdom was one of momentous change. Economically, socially and politically a nation was to emerge that was unlike any that had gone before. It was the first truly industrialised nation and with this status came a new set of responsibilities and problems. The years 1837-1901 when Queen Victoria was the head of state were years of discovery, invention and modernisation. The Victorian mind always pushed for improvements in all facets of life creating the technology and the legislation that would bring it about. Ireland, as part of the British Empire, had a role to play in this evolution. The country, which had historically always been at odds with the nation across the Irish Sea, was to witness a period in which it would again buck against the imperial yoke. All throughout this time of political upheaval a number of other forces were at play in Ireland. The Famine of 1845-51, the greatest humanitarian disaster the country had possibly ever seen was to redirect the Ireland’s growth drastically. Athlone, in the centre of Ireland was to develop many of the traits of a Victorian urban centre. Its growth can be used to explore how Victorian progress manifested itself in an Irish context. Numerous factors would help direct the growth in the town. The changes in society, economy and politics in Athlone over the period were to lay down the foundations on which the 20th century was to build. This dissertation will deal with the many factors that were influential in shaping Athlone’s development during the Victorian period, assessing how change occurred, if it were positive and if ultimately it was successful, beneficial and enduring.
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