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Limerick History, Ireland

Ireland History - A tormented past

Ireland is a small country but its history is a source of fascination for many historians. Over the centuries, this little island gave birth to one o the most captivating cultures in Europe. Limerick is nowadays the third largest city in Ireland, and it played an important part in Ireland's colourful past.

Ireland History - Viking occupation and Middle Ages

Unfortunately, Limerick's early history remains largely unknown. Even though the ancient ancestors of the Irish were literate, the Viking conquerors destroyed most of the written records. Despite the archaeological findings, oral tradition tells that St. Patrick visited early Luimneach (as it is called in Gaelic) in the 5th century.

Limerick was invaded by Vikings in mid 9th century, and many of the local Irish leaders allied themselves with the conquerors. However, in 968, Brian Boru, the national hero of Ireland, defeated the Hiberno-Norse clans of Limerick and forced them to pay tribute. In the 12th century, the Irish ruler of the city burned it to the ground in order to save it from the invading Normans coming from Britain. Limerick was finally captured by the Normans, and King John Lackland built the famous castle that bears his name. But during the following centuries, the British found it hard to keep up a centralised reign over Ireland, and like Dublin and Cork, Limerick virtually became a city state.

Ireland History - Modern era

The 17th century witnessed numerous clashes between the English and the native Irish. Limerick was besieged several times during this period. Perhaps the most important siege took place during the Williamite War, when Limerick ended up being the last city to support King James II, under the command of Patrick Sarsfield.

In the second half of the 19th century, there was an influx of Jewish immigrants in the city. The Jew adjusted well to the economic scene of Limerick and played an important part in retail trade, until a priest, John Creagh, urged the Catholics of the city to boycott the Jews. Although the city's Protestants supported the Jews, eventually they all left Limerick and moved to Cork.

During the Irish War of Independence, Limerick was declared a special military area, and no one could enter the city without a special permit. In 1920, the conflict between the IRA and the British troops became open, and several city officials were murdered.

After the Word War II, Limerick's economy entered a period of stagnation cause by the high rates o immigration and unemployment. This period of poverty is very vividly described by local writer Frank McCourt in his memoir Angela's Ashes. It is interesting to note that Che Guevara stopped briefly in Limerick when his flight from Prague to Cuba experienced some problems.

The Celtic Tiger in the 90’s boosted Ireland out of poverty, and made it one of the richest countries in Europe. Gradually, the city went through a radical transformation and became a charming city that attracts millions of tourists every year.

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