Irish History online

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 5 (Sep/Oct 2007), News, Volume 15


Irish History Online (IHO) is a fully searchable electronic bibliography of publications on Irish history, which is making it much easier to discover what has been published on particular topics in Irish history. This free online resource, based in the Department of History, NUI Maynooth, Co. Kildare (principal investigator: Professor Jackie Hill), was set up in 2003 thanks to a three-year project grant from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences. It was established in cooperation with the Royal Historical Society (RHS) Bibliography of British and Irish History (which went online in 2002), of which it is now the Irish component, sharing the same software. To date, almost 60,000 titles on Irish history, covering publications from 1936 to 2002, are accessible through the IHO Search Menu (www.irishhistoryonline.ie) or through the RHS Bibliography’s ‘Irish material only’ Search Menu option (www.rhs.ac.uk/bibl). These titles cover not only monographs but also essays in collective volumes as well as journal articles, including articles in local history journals. This makes IHO far more comprehensive than any other bibliography of Irish history, electronic or printed. Details of more recent titles, recorded by Máirín Cassidy and Ciaran Nicholson, whose work is a vital part of IHO, are being made available on a phased basis.
The first phase of the project involved digitising the entire corpus of ‘Writings on Irish History’ (published annually in Irish Historical Studies from 1938 onwards, and in pamphlet form in the 1990s). The bibliographic editor, Dr Anthony McCormack, added appropriate indexing terms and keywords; the time period covered by each record is also indicated, so that users can search for material covering any year or range of years. Thanks to the ADLIB software customised by the RHS Bibliography team, there are hierarchically controlled languages for advanced searching by subject and place, and an authority list for personal names. In addition, and also thanks to the shared software, users of IHO have available to them several other important online resources, some of which can help in locating printed or online text. ‘These include COPAC, which gives access to the merged online catalogues of the Consortium of Research Libraries, and OCLC’s (Online Computer Library Centre) WorldCat, which allows users to identify the library nearest to them containing a copy of the book/article they want; EDINA’s (University of Edinburgh) Get Copy service, which (in the case of academic institutions participating in the service) provides access to the online text of certain electronically published journals and books; and articles in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (which contains many thousands of entries on Irish men and women).’ These innovations are likely to become increasingly important in the future, as more Irish history journals begin to make use of electronic publishing, and as the eagerly awaited date draws nearer for the publication, in hard copy and electronically, of the Dictionary of Irish Biography, the multi-volume enterprise in preparation under the aegis of the Royal Irish Academy.
A second three-year project grant has been awarded by the IRCHSS, running from 2006 to 2009. Under a new editor, Dr Frank Cullen, and with the assistance of an international steering committee, the principal aim during phase 2 is to extend the coverage of overseas publications on Irish history, especially those on ‘the Irish abroad’. From the time of the Famine of the 1840s down to the 1950s, around one-third of those born in Ireland emigrated, mostly to the USA but with significant numbers going to Canada and Australasia, as well as to Britain. Communities of Irish descent are also to be found in South America, Africa, Asia and all over Europe. IHO already contains much information on the Irish abroad, but it is not comprehensive. In 2007 the main target is to identify gaps in the coverage of the Irish in North America; in 2008 the focus will be on the Irish in Europe; and in 2009 on the Irish in the rest of the world.
IHO is very grateful to those who have already offered advice as to the whereabouts of material on the Irish abroad. Suggestions on the Irish abroad and on mainstream Irish history are always welcome: there is a feedback page on the website. If you are a published author, do check out the coverage of your own publications (despite all due care, some errors and omissions do occur). But remember that online data at present extend only to publications up to and including 2002. Titles of books and articles published after 2002 will, with some exceptions, not yet be available for online searching but will be coming on stream periodically—updates are announced on the website. By the end of 2009, the aim is that the current five-year gap will have been narrowed to two years, with many, if not all, of the titles of publications for 2007 available for online searching.
Enquiries: Jackie Hill, Frank Cullen, Irish History Online, Department of History, NUI Maynooth, Co. Kildare, www.irishhistoryonline.ie.

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