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British in Ireland: Dublin Castle Records

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About this Collection

The British in Ireland

Publishers Foreword

Primary Source Media is proud to present Series 1 of the microfilm collection The British in Ireland. The series is presented in seven parts and consists of records drawn from class CO 904 from the Public Record Office, London. This class contains the bulk of the surviving records of the Irish Government in Dublin Castle for the years 1872-1926, a crucial period which saw the rise of Parnell and the Land War in 1880 through to the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1921.

Part 1 of the series details the activities of anti-government organisations, including a number of early files on Ribbonism. Secret police material on all the leading opposition groups of the day are covered, including Sinn Fein, the Fenians, the United Irish League, numerous agrarian secret societies and, at the other end of the political spectrum, the Ulster Unionists. Many minor societies and organisations are also recorded together with details of leading opposition members. Parts 2, 3 and 4 consist of Police Reports. Part 2 commences with Divisional Commissioners and County Inspectors monthly confidential reports from January 1892 to December 1897. Parts 3 and 4 cover the Inspector Generals and County Inspectors monthly confidential reports from January 1898 to December 1913 and January 1914 to September 1921 respectively. Part 4 also contains files recording outrages against the police and reports from individual counties on criminal offences. Part 5 deals with the Public Control and Administration from 1884-1921 including the seizure and censorship of various publications and journals. Part 6 is concerned with Judicial Proceedings. Enquiries and Miscellaneous Records from 1872-1926, information on various petitions, court appeals and compensation claims are detailed here, along with a variety of other investigations and inquiries. Part 7 consists of Royal Irish Constabulary Prime Special Branch files on over 440 individual Sinn Fein and Republican suspects from 1899-1921, including Eamon de Valera and Sir Roger Casement. Each file within Part 7 contains information on an individual suspect, these are presented in alphabetical order and listed under Contents of Reels.

Ireland, and its rule, is the subject of immense international controversy, as it has been for several centuries. The Royal Irish Constabulary records, in documenting the fraught relationship between the two countries, vividly recreate British Government policy, with the monthly reports illustrating the response to attempts at social, economic and political reform. The papers also illustrate the methods and motives of Dublin Castles police system and offer insights into the legal and political inhibitions which, so often restrained the government from interfering with the various private armies.

There is much of importance for the student of agrarian unrest and of nationalism, including statistical breakdowns of crime, reports of the economic conditions of tenants and owner-occupiers, tension between farmers and ranchers in the west of Ireland, reports from spies on secret society activity and government monitoring of political organisations. Together with PRO class CO 903, there is nothing comparable which chronicles British rule in Ireland during this period. These files are an essential source for any close analysis of Irish history.

Technical Note

Primary Source Media (now Primary Source Microfilm, an imprint of the Gale Group) has set itself the highest standards in the field of archivally-permanent library microfilming. Our microfilm publications conform to the recommendations of the guides to good microforming and micropublishing practice, and meet the standards established by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

Attention should be drawn to the nature of some of the original material. Printed material and manuscript documents from PRO Class CO 904 sometimes consist of records and correspondence printed or written with a variety of inks and pens, and on paper which has become discoloured, rendering the original document difficult to read. Occasionally files have been tightly bound resulting in text loss. These original characteristics present difficulties of image and contrast which stringent tests and camera alterations cannot entirely overcome. Every effort has been made to minimise these difficulties though there are occasional pages that have proved impossible to reproduce satisfactorily. Conscious of this, we have chosen to include these pages in order to make available the complete file.

Some files may contain documents which are out of chronological order or numerical sequence, these having been filmed as found at the Public Record Office in accordance with good archival practice. The collection is presented as filmed by the Public Record Office, London and reels have been numbered from 1 to 139, reel numbers 15, 16 and 17 however have not been used.