Smith: The Ancient and Present State of the County and City of Cork

Pdf Smith, Charles. The ancient and present state of the city of Cork. Volume 1. Dublin: W. Wilson, 1774.
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Pdf Smith, Charles. The ancient and present state of the city of Cork. Volume 2. Dublin: W. Wilson, 1774.
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Charles Smith's The Ancient And Present State of the City of Cork exists in two volumes and describes the history of Cork city from earliest times until the latter half of the 18th century. His work has a broad scope covering a range of natural, civil, ecclesiastical, historical and topographical information.

Smith claimed that possibly the earliest mention of Cork in the ancient record is in the work of Ptolemy who describes a tribe known as Coriondi which he believes is probably a corruption of Coritani, the name of a tribe who lived in eastern Britain. The Gaelic for Cork is corcach or 'swamp' which Smith links with curach or the traditional wooden framed skin covered boat used by the native Irish.

Cork was originally a monastic settlement established by St. Finbarr in the 6th century. The Vikings established a trading post there in the 10th century which was the genesis of what became the city of Cork . It was captured by the Normans following the 12th century and for much of the Middle Ages remained a walled town cut off from the Pale and often besieged or attacked by the native Gaelic tribes who controlled the countryside and demanded tribute from the townspeople. The most important goods traded from the city of Cork were wool, hides, iron, salt and wine and the wealthiest merchant families established its municipal government.

The city was granted its charter by King John in 1185 and the position of Mayor of Cork was instituted in 1318.The Black Death devastated the population of the city in 1349 reducing it by half. During the War of the Roses when the English crown was disputed the mayor and prominent townspeople supported Perkin Warbeck a pretender to the English throne. Henry VII had the rebels all executed and it is said from this incident the reputation of Cork city and County as rebels originates.

In the 16th century the Tudor monarchs attempted to force Protestantism on Ireland through a series of plantations including a significant Protestant settlement in Cork leading to rebellion. At the time the townspeople city of Cork remained loyal to the crown in return for toleration of their Catholic faith. However in 1609 they rebelled themselves and forced out Protestant churchmen and officials. Lord Mountjoy arrested the ringleaders.

Renewed Catholic rebellion followed in 1641 and Cork became a Protestant stronghold. In 1644 the Catholic townspeople were expelled by Murrough O'Brien, the Earl of Inchiquin.

In the 17th and 18th centuries French Huguenots arrived in Cork escaping persecution in France while neo-classical and Georgian buildings were buildings like their counterparts in Dublin appeared in Cork city. Butter and beef was exported to Britain , Europe and America from the port of Cork and the population expanded considerably. It was during this prosperous period that Smith wrote his history of the city of Cork .

In the 19th century the fortunes of Cork city declined following the Act of Union and many citizens emigrated to American and Canada . The Great Famine led to an influx of the country poor and the city was predominantly Catholic once again.


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