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Cork History, Ireland

Cork is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland after Dublin, and the third of the most populated ones on the island. The city is crossed by the River Lee, which account for Cork’s original Gaelic name, corcach, meaning a marshy place. The inhabitants of Cork like to refer to their city as the Rebel City, or the true capital of Ireland, due to the city’s history of rebellions and uprisings against the English. The city can also boast of having the second largest natural harbor in the world, after Sidney, Australia. Cork is part of the Cork-Limerick Galway corridor which links the country’s most populous and well developed cities. This Cork History Guide will give a brief outline of the historical events that shaped Cork into the modern city it is today.

Cork History Guide - Foundation and early Middle Ages

The city is said to have been established by St. Finbar in the 6th century, founded a monastery on Cork’s current site. The actual city was founded during the Viking invasion of the island, at the beginning of the 10th century. A few centuries later, the wave of Anglo Normans took over the Viking settlement and transformed the town into an outpost of the old English in the middle of the hostile Gaelic countryside. King John Lackland granted Cork its city charter in 1185. The city’s population was decimated in 1349 by the Black Death, a severe blow to the little town of merely 2000 inhabitants. Cork later got caught up in the War of the Roses, when a pretender to the English throne tried to recruit supporters in the city. Many of the city’s officials sided with Perkin Warbeck, the pretender, but when the war was over they were all executed, and thus Cork received the nickname of the Rebel City.

Cork History Guide - Late Middle Ages

In the second half of the 16th century, the English took control of the entire Irish island, and Henry VIII was declared the King of Ireland. During the Tudor re-conquest, Cork had much to suffer. The fighting drove many country-people to Cork, and they brought another outbreak of bubonic plague. Cork was loyal to the English Crown, but in exchange for their loyalty, people demanded the freedom of practicing Roman Catholicism. Limerick, Waterford and Cork rebelled against the English and expelled all the English Protestant ministers. The rebellion was quenched, but it was followed 40 years later, in 1641, by another bloody uprising, when the Catholic Irish massacred the Protestant settlers. Many Protestants took refuge at Cork, the city remained under Protestant domination for the following two centuries. Despite this, the city developed rapidly, and became an important mercantile city. In the 18th century, much of the city’s typical Georgian buildings were erected. This Cork History Guide recommends that you visit the Customs House, a fine example of 18th century architecture.

Cork History Guide - 20th century to present

Cork was an ardent supporter of the Irish nationalist movement. During the Easter Rising, thousand of Corkonian volunteers rebelled against British rule, and in the following Irish War of Independence, Cork became a bloody battleground. The city was the site of much turmoil in the 20th century, but the Celtic Tiger helped it to become of the most well developed cities in Ireland.

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