Online Primary Sources: The Down Survey of Ireland

The wars that tore apart Ireland in the mid-1600s and resulted in the deaths of twenty percent of the population had other repercussions as well. In order to reward his soldiers and to settle some previous debts, Oliver Cromwell awarded land to his followers. However, in order to give the land away, the government needed to know what land there was. So a massive survey was undertaken to delineate the lands in Ireland – the first time such a large-scale survey had been attempted. This became known as the Down Survey of Ireland.

This website allows some granular investigations, and it is amazing at the data that can be retrieved. For instance, one can track the forfeiture of land from a Catholic landowner in 1641 to a Protestant one in 1670, mirroring the shift in land ownership throughout the country as the English forced the Catholic population into forfeiture and registered the lands under Protestant hegemony. And the process, initiated by Cromwell was furthered by his successor Charles II.

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