Belfast Telegraph

Queen’s to explore Belfast in new book

The story of the city will be told in Belfast 400, a new book exploring the full range of developments that make up Belfast’s distinctive urban history, much of it previously untold.

The book will be published to coincide with the 400th anniversary of the granting of Belfast’s charter in 1613.

Queen’s has been awarded a grant of almost £60,000 by the Leverhulme Trust to complete the project, which will be led by Professor Sean Connolly from the University’s School of History and Anthropology. Belfast 400 will be published by Liverpool University Press. The project is also being supported by Belfast City Council and will feature historians, archaeologists, geographers and social scientists from across the university.

Professor Connolly said: “Belfast is Ireland’s only example of a major industrial city. Yet the story of its remarkable rise as a major industrial and trading centre, and the far-reaching social and cultural changes that came with it, remains largely untold.

“Instead, attention has focussed narrowly on the development of the city’s sectarian and political conflicts, resulting in a limited, even impoverished, account of Belfast’s history.

“Belfast 400 will explore the full range of factors that contributed to the city’s development, reconstructing a rich urban history that transcends contemporary political and sectarian divisions.

“Our research will provide an accessible overview of the many stages of Belfast’s urban development — from the reasons behind its emergence as a settlement, to its development into a prosperous trading centre, the rise of the industrial town, and urban decay and renewal. We will look at how this development was reflected in the experiences of its inhabitants, through changes in housing, the formation of different types of community, and new patterns of leisure and consumption.

“While we don’t want to ignore the sectarian and political conflict that constitutes the uglier side of the city’s past, it must not be allowed to overshadow other aspects of an urban history that is unique in Irish terms and also represents an important and neglected part of the history of the British industrial city.”

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Pat Convery, said: “Belfast City Council is delighted to be in a creative partnership with Queen’s University and the Liverpool University Press in this project which will help tell Belfast’s story to the world and connect our people to their history.

“Professor Connolly is one of the leading historians of our time, so our story could not be in safer or more capable hands. It is my hope that we can look back at our long history, in a spirit which acknowledges shared experience. People all over the world are interested in Belfast’s history, but too often see it as being solely one of strife, or sometimes of successes in the distant past.”

Belfast 400 will be published by Liverpool University Press in the Autumn of 2012.

Belfast Telegraph

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