Sorry, this course is not currently running. Browse other History courses.

  • Dublin City University logo

Dublin: A Social History, 1850-1930

Journey into Dublin’s past, and learn about housing, health, and life in the city from the viewpoint of ordinary Dubliners.

2,060 enrolled on this course

Busy Sackville St. now O'Connell Street bridge in Dublin circa July 1900. People walking up and down the pedestrian paths on the bridge while trams carry passengers in the direction of O'Connell Street.
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    4 hours

Learn about everyday life in the Irish capital during a tumultuous period

Between 1850 and 1930, Dublin went through landmark change, evolving from a city of tenements to a city of suburbs in the landscape of post-Famine Ireland.

On this course, you’ll journey into the social history of the city. You’ll explore how typical Molly Malone’s death from fever at a young age really was, and examine how James Joyce’s ‘dear, dirty Dublin’ came into being.

Dive into Dublin’s colourful culture and history

Specialists in history and geography at Dublin City University will walk you through the Dublin of old, introducing you to the daily lives of ordinary Dubliners – the good, the bad, and the gruesome.

You’ll learn about the political, health, and economic life of Dublin of the period, and come away able to identify how Dublin’s past continues to inform its present.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 16 seconds As a geographer, an historical geographer, we understand place as developing as layers through time.

Skip to 0 minutes and 28 seconds So if you walk down a street in a city. You walk down O’Connell Street, for example. It was O’Connell Street, it was Sackville Street, before that, it was actually marshy land at the edge of the river. And you think about all of the events that have taken place there, all of the people who have passed through. But at everyday lived experience of people in the city. It’s the people who shape the cities, and the cities in turn seem to shape people.

Skip to 1 minute and 13 seconds So we started in 1850. So, it’s Dublin after the Famine, and we’re going up to the new state up to 1930. If you look around the city today, for people who are familiar with Dublin, a lot of the things that happened during that time period are still prominent in the landscape that we see.

Skip to 1 minute and 40 seconds My name is Juliana Adelman. I’m a historian of 19th century Ireland and Britain, particularly social and economic history. Hi, I’m Ruth McManus. I’m a geographer working in the School of History and Geography here at DCU. So we’re looking at the history of Dublin in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s a huge period of social change. We have the development of the suburbs, we have a huge public health crisis unfolding, where Dublin’s death rates are soaring. In the 19th century in particular, there was a very strong philosophy around the deserving poor, for example, and getting people out of slums.

Skip to 2 minutes and 25 seconds And people are developing those ideas in the context of what they see around them in the city, what kinds of living conditions they see, what kinds of working conditions they see. And that if you could reshape where people lived, you would actually create better citizens. So one of the things that I’m particularly interested in, is when they suddenly discover that diseases are caused not by bad smells in the air, but also by minute organisms, and how that affects the way they approach how the city should be shaped, how people want to interact with one another.

Skip to 3 minutes and 4 seconds Anybody who has any association with Dublin, if you’ve passed through on your way somewhere else on holidays. If you’re somebody who’s lived there all your life and has walked the streets and wondered what’s gone on, or how come the city is the way it is today. Even though we don’t have horsedrawn trams or Omni buses anymore, a lot of those traffic routes would be familiar to people. If you travelled back in time, you’d be taking, you know, not the same bus, but you might be traveling on similar roads. We have a huge and very passionate public in Dublin itself.

Skip to 3 minutes and 39 seconds Anytime we give public lectures, you’d be amazed at the people who come and tell us their stories, and we’re hoping that this kind of format of a course, will enable people to interact and to share their stories, as well as learning the context of their lives and the experience of their ancestors as well. I love when my students tell me “before I took this course I never really looked around me. I never really looked at the buildings and kind of thought about them and why they get to be there.” And what that tells us about our ancestors, about the people who lived in the past; past society inscribes itself on the landscape and on the streetscape.

What topics will you cover?

  • Introduction to Dublin, 1850-1930 – its political and social context
  • Health and disease – death, disease and public health initiatives
  • Living conditions and housing – suburban development and different approaches to the slums
  • Leisure and everyday life – work and play for ordinary Dubliners

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Identify the main contours of Dublin between 1850 and 1930 (social, political, economic, geographic)
  • Describe what it was like to live in Dublin from 1850 to 1930, identifying how it changed over time
  • Explore some key sources which can be used to study the history of post-Famine Dublin
  • Compare key issues and debates about Dublin in the past with contemporary issues

Who is the course for?

This course would appeal to people interested in historical urban research, members of the Irish diaspora interested in their ancestors, people coming to Dublin to study, or those just curious about urban social history.

Who will you learn with?

I'm Assistant Professor in history at Dublin City University in Ireland. You can find out more about me, and my most recent book, at my website:

I am a geographer working in the School of History & Geography at Dublin City University.

Who developed the course?

Dublin City University

Dublin City University is a young, dynamic and ambitious Irish university with a distinctive mission to transform lives and societies through education, research and innovation.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Learner reviews

Learner reviews cannot be loaded due to your cookie settings. Please and refresh the page to view this content.

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...