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Inscribing Ireland : Place-names and the author/ity of the Ordnance Survey (1824-1846) Gilchrist, Elizabeth Anne


In 1825, two detachments of Royal Engineers were dispatched from their English headquarters and sent to Dublin to undertake the first Ordnance Survey of Ireland. This Survey aimed to set new standards for topographical mapping: however there was an anxiety to make the maps a standard of orthography as well as of topography. Placenames were to be examined and 'rectified' with the same ardour for precision as all other aspects of the Survey. This thesis examines the textual processes by which the Ordnance Survey's journey through Ireland resulted in its place-names becoming fixed in print. From detailed readings of original documents of the Ordnance Survey I reconstruct the principles, policies and methods by which the surveyors collected and edited placenames for publication on the Ordnance Survey maps. I trace how orthographic knowledge was produced, manipulated and negotiated within the analytical spaces of the Ordnance Survey documentation. Having reconstructed the Survey's orthographic procedures I consider what the overall effect these various policies and practices was on the Irish namescape at large. I argue that the fixing of Ireland's place-names on the Ordnance Survey maps systematically modified these names. More specifically I argue that the Ordnance Survey anglicised Ireland's place-names. Upon its completion in 1846, this cartographic operation had accomplished more than the production of a "representation of land on paper." These maps of the Irish Survey constructed a particular vision of Ireland through very particular modes of representation. This cartographic construction of Ireland comprised a profoundly pragmatic and politicised discourse. I situate the Survey's naming practices within the broader political context of English-Irish relations. The Ordnance Survey and its orthographic practices in particular are argued throughout this work to be important constituents of England's apparatus for extending political, cultural and economic control over Ireland during the nineteenth century.

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