11 May 2011

Ireland, 1918

I found this 1918 election map of Ireland in the New York Public Library. During the 20th Century support for every form of Irish nationalism came from New York making this map a fascinating relic. It was published by the Friends of Irish Freedom in their Manhattan base. 1918’s General Election had seen the overwhelming defeat of the moderate nationalist Irish Parliamentary Party and a huge victory for Sinn Féin. The map distinguishes between these two branches of nationalism although it emphasises the general trend make strong points. Such as, “Of every 5 voters 4 voted for Self-Determination.”

Political Ulster after the 1918 election (click through for a closer look).

Ulster’s border is printed in bold (the only of Ireland’s provinces to be treated like so). This is lest we forget that Ulster is a fact a bigger entity that some of regions that were being proposed for partition at the time. Text on the map reads, “Ulster is the portion above the heavy line. Note the large Republican territory.”

Territory, yes. However Unionists had still won the majority of the 1918 vote across the full nine counties of Ulster. Here the map-makers were hoping to counteract votes with simple size.

Detail, text (click through for a closer look).

Detail, text (click through for a closer look).

Some interesting side-issues are raised on the map’s texts, issues that must have been significant at the time but may no longer seem so. The map wants us to know that Ulster is not the richest province, showing Leinster to have greater production. How that would have played into contemporary debate I am not sure. The map also draws in concerns about Eastern Europe, stating; “God irrevocably fixed the boundaries of Ireland. Those of Poland, Czecho-Slavia, Jugo-Slavia, Serbia, Roumaia, etc, have been fixed temporarily by politicians.”

The map-makers seem to intuit future problems in Eastern Europe. What they may not have predicted was that the smooth green colouring that they spread across most of the Irish counties would soon be ruptured by the Irish Civil War. Most strikingly, partition would create a separate Northern Ireland. The clean, direct, argument of this map would soon become murky.