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May 23, 2022

Seven Centuries of Irish Archives Painstakingly Recreated After Being Destroyed in Civil War

In June 1922, the opening battle of Ireland’s civil war destroyed one of Europe’s great archives in a historic calamity that reduced seven centuries of documents and manuscripts to ash and dust.

Once the envy of scholars around the world, the Public Record Office at the Four Courts in Dublin, was a repository of documents dating from medieval times, and packed into a six-storey building by the River Liffey. It was obliterated when troops of the fledgling Irish state bombarded former comrades who were hunkered down at the site as part of a rebellion by hardline republicans against peace with Britain.

A wounded rebel is brought out of the burning Four Courts building in Dublin after the surrender to Free State troops in June 1922. Photograph: Bettmann Archive


Each side blamed the other for the destruction, but there was no disputing the consequences. “At one blow, the records of centuries have passed into oblivion,” said Herbert Wood, deputy keeper of the public records. The ruins stood as a testament to loss and a harbinger of the destruction of European cultural treasures in 20th century wars.

Now, on the eve of the disaster’s centenary, a virtual reconstruction of the building and its archives is to be unveiled. Historians, archivists and computer scientists have spent five years piecing together much of what had been thought lost for ever.

You can read more in an article published in The Guardian at: https://bit.ly/3wHtGr2.