The regional dimension of national education in pre-Famine Ireland


  • Kevin Lougheed Trinity College Dublin



The establishment of the National Education System in 1831 provided Ireland with a non-denominational education system aimed at reducing sectarian distrust and uniting the population. The national system was one element in the wider emergence of an institutional landscape in nineteenth century Ireland. The system involved a central-local management structure with the Commissioners of National Education having tight central control of an overall system but relied on local impetus to apply for, establish, and operate individual schools. As a result of this interaction, the emergence of national education was dependent on activities of various individuals and groups in Irish society, most notably the hierarchies of the various Churches. This paper examines the geographic aspects of the emergence of national education in the landscape of pre-Famine Ireland. The emergence of the system occurred in four distinct phases, with the activities of different groups affecting the uptake of national education. The distribution of national schools across the country is examined through thematic mapping, which identifies the development of distinct areas of high national-school densities and other areas of relative non-adoption. The pattern of national education in pre-Famine Ireland can be highly generalised by a line running from Sheephaven Bay in Donegal to Waterford Harbour, with the areas east of this line exhibiting high rates of national-school establishment, and areas to the west experiencing low national-school establishment. Spatial analysis is used to detect clusters of densities and provides further evidence of the spatial nature of national education. The spatial analysis is combined with the thematic mapping and discussion to produce a general regional map of the emergence of national education in pre-Famine Ireland. The regional map illustrates the role that social interactions played in the spatial emergence of institutions of the British state in nineteenth century Ireland.

Author Biography

Kevin Lougheed, Trinity College Dublin

Geography Department




How to Cite

Lougheed, K. (2015). The regional dimension of national education in pre-Famine Ireland. Irish Geography, 47(2), 49–74.





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