Doherty, Gillian M.

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Doherty, Gillian M.


Education: B.A.; Ph.D.


Office—Department of History, 5 Perrott Ave., University College, Cork, Ireland. E-mail—[email protected]


Historian, educator, and writer. University College Cork, Cork, Ireland, lecturer in the Department of History.


William M. Markey Scholarship, University of Massachusetts, 1995-96; Government of Ireland doctoral scholar in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, 1997-2000.


The Irish Ordnance Survey: History, Culture, and Memory, Four Courts Press (Portland, OR), 2004.

Contributor to books, including Sliabh Rua: A History of Its People and Places, edited by Jim Walsh, 2001; Essays on the Great Irish Famine, edited by Marita Fostery, Larry Geary, and J.J. Lee, 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including Journal of the Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society, History Ireland, and Peritia, and the electronic journal Chronicon. Project manager and coeditor of publications of Cork Multi-Text Project in History, a project dedicated to producing new texts (narrative essays and primary documents) in modern Irish history, 2000-02.


Gillian M. Doherty is a historian whose research interests include nineteenth-century Irish history—intellectual and cultural; historiography; Irish-language culture and politics; the Irish diaspora in North America; and mapping and surveying. She is also the author of The Irish Ordnance Survey: History, Culture, and Memory. The Ordinance Survey was primarily a cartography effort brought about by the British Government seeking to respond to Irish landowners who wanted the national survey for the development of a fairer taxation system for landowners based on survey results. Army surveyors ultimately undertook the survey project and worked on it from 1824 to 1846 to produce a collection of detailed maps of Ireland. Many cartography experts recognize the resulting 1,900 maps as cartographic masterpieces.

Discussing the survey in a review of Doherty's book for the Irish Literary Supplement, Thomas E. Hachey noted the complexity of the effort. Hachey wrote: "Beginning in 1824, the Ordnance Survey department included ten officers and ten surveyors of army rank, as well as three companies of regular soldiers numbering 150 in each corps. Local civilians were enlisted in the work, including laborers, draftsmen, engravers and collectors of statistics. Even with the help of many different skill groups, the scale and complexity of the mission represented a daunting challenge. The mapping was to include counties, baronies, and parishes, as well as the critically important townlands, ancient divisions numbering some 60,000 which had been the focus of the much earlier Down Survey."

Although historians have studied and written about the survey, Doherty focuses on a largely neglected effort of the survey, namely to provide a comprehensive account of local Irish history that encompasses archeology, culture, and the Irish society in general. This additional goal was to produce a survey that would also explain Ireland in a literary way as well as cartographically. Unfortunately only one memoir from the survey appeared before this aspect of the project was suspended.

Despite the suspension of the written historical aspects of the Irish Ordnance Survey, members of the survey had collected a vast amount of research involving the memoirs of Ordnance engineers and scholars, as well as local civic assistants. These memoirs represent an extraordinary archive of information on Ireland's folklore, culture, religious practices, social structures, and oral histories prior to the Irish Famine and then to later modernization. Doherty explores the survey's historical, cultural, and archaeological significance. She also examines the survey's broad implication for nationality and identity issues in Ireland.

Doherty points out in her book that some of the British administrators of the survey, particularly Colonel Thomas Colby and Captain Thomas Larcom, were men who came from the tradition of the Enlightenment. As a result, they believed in the importance of general knowledge as a way to produce reform. They saw the cultural-statistical recording aspects of the survey as something that might ultimately aid Ireland in dealing with many of its problems, including poverty and unemployment, as well as overall public discontent. The idea was that more detailed information about the culture and history of Ireland would serve to improve policymakers' understanding of Ireland and their economic and social needs. Although the actual collection of memoirs was halted early during the survey, workers continued to collect a large amount of data that was eventually housed by the Royal Irish Academy and accessed by the author.

"What she has accomplished is an expansive and invaluable intellectual history of Ireland, drawing upon both the orally transmitted nineteenth-century memoirs, and the cultural and anthropological legacy of a much earlier era which has been dutifully examined and painstakingly preserved," wrote Hachey. "The result is a sophisticated, erudite and thoroughly engrossing account of an epic journey into Ireland's distant past."



American Historical Review, April, 2006, Michael De Nie, review of The Irish Ordnance Survey: History, Culture, and Memory, p. 566.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, May, 2005, T.P. Power, review of The Irish Ordnance Survey, p. 1661.

Irish Literary Supplement, spring, 2006, Thomas E. Hachey, "An Epic Journey into Ireland's Distant Past," review of The Irish Ordnance Survey, p. 4.

Reference & Research Book News, November, 2004, review of The Irish Ordnance Survey, p. 74; February, 2007, review of The Irish Ordnance Survey.


Irish Democrat, (April 20, 2007), Roy Johnston, review of The Irish Ordnance Survey.

University College Cork Department of History Web site, (August 18, 2008), faculty profile of author.

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