Decade of Centenaries

Welcome to the National Archives' Decade of Centenaries website. The decade, which began in 1912 and finished in 1923, was the most turbulent and transformative experienced by Ireland in the 20th century. When it was over, the island had been partitioned into two states, one of which was independent. The country had experienced the 1913 Lockout, World War 1, the 1916 Easter Rising, the War of Independence, and a bitterly divisive civil war. Upwards of 36,000 people had died as a result of these various conflicts and many more were maimed and injured. A great deal of property, including iconic public buildings, was destroyed, particularly in our cities. The cultural ferment which began the decade had, by its end, to transform itself into the administrative and legislative competence to run a country.


One of the great achievements of the decade was votes for women, granted in 1918 to some women. The full franchise was extended to all over the age of 21 in the 1922 Constitution. Women's votes in 1918 may have made a difference to the outcome of the crucial general election of that year, which gave Sinn Féin a decisive victory over the Irish Parliamentary Party, and led directly to the War of Independence. The First Dáil established in 1919, gradually extended its remit through the country at this time; effectively a government on the run, its members had to learn the ropes of administration, management and the establishment and retention of public loyalty to new institutions.

The National Archives has in its holdings a wealth of material relating to this crucial decade, particularly compensation and police files, and including the full record of the First Dáil, one of the most complete accounts of such a government anywhere in the world. Over the coming years, we will be placing online, free to access, images and catalogues of most of this material, thus adding to the wealth of primary sources, such as the Bureau of Military History and the Military Service Pensions files, which are already transforming the scholarly and public landscape for the period.

The Property Losses (Ireland) Compensation files are a completely unique look at Dublin in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising. Approximately 6500 files, they provide insight into damage to property during the Rising, from the most humble, like a milkman's stock, to the grandest, like Clery's Department Store. They are a vivid record of a city recovering from significant damage following revolutionary action and retaliation.

The National Archives believes in partnerships to promote access to significant archives, and one of the series now available on this site comes from other sources: the Reports of the Irish Trade Union Congress, 1901 - 1925, digitised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and offered to the National Archives to be placed online. They are a wonderful record of the thinking and actions of the Irish labour movement during probably its most important decade, beginning with the foundation of the ITGWU, continuing through the Lockout, witnessing the patient building of the trade union movement and its transition to an independent state.

There is also a link to our already launched and very popular Dublin Metropolitan Police Movement of Extremists files, 1915 - 1916, which detail police monitoring of political suspects in the period before the Rising.

We will shortly be placing online the Reports of Courtmartial Proceedings, 1916, which are the records of the perfunctory trials of the 15 men, including the leaders of the Rising, who were executed in May 1916. The swift executions of these men did much to change Irish public opinion towards the Rising, and this change made possible the War of Independence in the aftermath of Sinn Féin's victory in the 1918 general election. The originals of these iconic records are in the possession of The National Archives in London. Purchase of the images was made possible by Universities Ireland.