Ireland in 1904


In 1904 on the evening of June 16th a young Galway woman and a young Dublin man, Nora Barnacle and James Joyce, walked out together for the first time; and as a tribute to his life-long companion, Joyce set his masterpiece Ulysses on that day. This site looks at the Ireland, and most specifically the Dublin, of 1904, in the context of the many changes that have taken place in Irish society over the past hundred years.

The worlds of work, home and leisure have changed immeasurably since the original Bloomsday. Ireland operates under a different political system and there is greatly increased life expectancy (an average of 75 years in comparison to 48 years in 1904) and much higher education levels among the population. Many of the diseases which killed thousands of people at the beginning of the 20th century have been virtually eradicated; women play a much greater role in the economic and political life of society and the tide of emigration has been reversed, with people from other countries now seeing Ireland as a land of opportunity. In the 2002 Census, Non-Nationals accounted for 6% of the population of Ireland. A further 1% of the population was made up of the children or grandchildren of Irish people who had emigrated to such countries as England, the United States and Australia.

Although poverty and want still exist, no-one need go barefoot or starve to death in Dublin in 2004; in 1904 this could happen.

Other major changes, such as the new changes, such as the new methods of transport and communication (58 cars were registered for the whole of Ireland in April 1904 and City Hall noted proudly in the Corporation Diary that it now possessed two phone lines) have made Dublin a very different place. Yet the city is still recognisably the same place Joyce walked though with Nora Barnacle; many of the same institutions, monuments and shops still exist and couples still meet under Clery's Clock.

It is also true to say that its citizens share preoccupations, fears and hopes not so very much different from those of our forbears in 1904.

Dublin City Public Libraries

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