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Withdrawn Module: Outcast Ireland: Institutions and the Making of Irish Society, 1801-2000 (HI968)

Please note that this module was available
until 2013, but has since been
withdrawn and is no longer available.

Context of Module

This module, taught in the Spring term, may be taken by students on the MA in History, the MA in Modern History, or any taught Master's student outside the History Department.



The purpose of this course is to investigate, through a study of primary documents, literary responses, and secondary reading, a range of institutions that dealt with the ‘outcast’ (the poor, the diseased, the ill, prostitutes and unwanted children) in nineteenth and twentieth-century Ireland. The institutions to be examined include workhouses, lunatic asylums, Magdalen asylums, and industrial and reformatory schools. Those participating in the course will discuss and analyse the history of these institutions, their function and development within a changing society, and their literary and cultural representations. The course will also consider the process of memorialisation at work in Irish culture: how the memory of these asylums and schools is constructed and perpetuated, and its effects on present-day Ireland.

While the focus of the course will be on the historical development of these institutions it will also investigate, as far as is possible, the actual experiences of those who were maintained in these institutions. The literary works created around and about these institutions will form a central analytical strand within the course. The course does not require the participants to have studied history before, but will utilise certain historical skills such as reading and analysing documents and sources, working with evidence, and becoming familiar with certain conceptual frameworks and methodologies. These skills will be developed on the course with the support of the module leader.

Each session will begin with a short lecture on the theme noted in the course outline and will then proceed to discuss the documents, literary works and secondary reading.



Week 1: Issues in Irish History and Literature

Week 2 & 3: Workhouses and the Destitute

Week 4 & 5: Industrial Reformatory Schools: Caring and Corruption

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7 & 8: Asylums and the Construction of Madness

Week 9 & 10: The Magdalen Asylums: Penitence and Social Order


Illustrative Bibliography

The following books provide good general histories of Ireland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is advisable that you read at least one of these texts.

Boyce, D.G., Nineteenth-century Ireland: The Search for Stability (Dublin, 1990).

Ferriter, Diarmaid, The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000 (London, 2004).

Foster, R.F., Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (London, 1988).

Hoppen, K.T., Ireland Since 1800: Conflict and Conformity (London, 1989).

Jackson, Alvin, Ireland, 1798-1998 (Oxford, 1999).

Keogh, D., Twentieth Century Ireland. Nation and State (Dublin, 1994).

Townshend, Charles, Ireland in the Twentieth Century, A Political History (London, 1998).

For works on the history of Irish literature you will find the following useful:

Foster, John Wilson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Irish Novel (Cambridge, 2006).

Kelleher, Margaret and Philip O’Leary (eds), The Cambridge History of Irish Literature, 2 vols. (Cambridge ,2006).

You will also find The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing vols. 1-3 (Derry/New York 1991) and the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing: vols. 4-5, Irish Women’s Writings and Traditions (Cork/ New York, 2002), especially useful. Vols. 4 and 5 contain information on the place of women in Irish history, society and culture from 600 to 2000.

For an introduction to Irish film see Martin McLoone, Irish Film: The Emergence of a Contemporary Cinema (London, 2000).

The Royal Historical Society has an excellent bibliographic site that can be searched for books and articles published on British and Irish history. It is very straightforward to use and should be of great benefit to you when you need to find reading for an essay. The address is

The Library also holds a number of journals, either through JSTOR or on the shelves, that deal with Irish history, politics, literature and culture. These are:

  1. Irish Historical Studies
  2. Saothar: Journal of the Irish Labour History Society
  3. History Ireland
  4. Irish Review
  5. Irish Economic and Social History
  6. Irish Studies Review
  7. Eire/Ireland
  8. New Hibernia Review

The last three journals will contain many articles relevant to this course.



1 assessed essay of 5,000 words. You may, additionally, complete an unassessed essay of 2,500 words which you submit to either Maria Luddy or Elizabeth Barry in week 7.