The Edge Effect: Irish Borderlands and the Unnatural Geography of Partition, 1920-1925 Open Access

Clark, Emily Elizabeth (2013)

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In many ways partition is a natural feature of the Irish landscape. Leading up to the 20th century, the coincidence of geographic and demographic phenomena created a distinct frontier that interceded between the northern and southern poles of Ireland. This borderland region can be understood as an example of the ecological principle of edge effect in both the literal scientific sense, as the transition between contiguous ecological regimes, as well as on a more metaphorical level, as a description of the meeting of different ethno-national traditions. The interstitiality of human and physical geographies was a culture in its own right that belonged to neither Protestant-Unionist nor Catholic-Nationalist tradition. However, between 1920 and 1925, the partition process entrenched an unnaturally sharp division between the two. The Irish border has since been invested with such symbolic significance, that it has lost its qualitative dimensions. It is important to look beneath the high politics of partition to rediscover the border as a situated phenomenon. This thesis approaches the border from a geographical perspective by examining elements of the physical environment, engaging with public opinion and the dynamics of local communities, as well as evaluating the survey methods and conclusions of the Irish Boundary Commission. Original maps have been created using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, archival sources, and statistical databases to recreate the different visions of the partition and to help draw conclusions on the conformation of Ireland's border heritage.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

I: The Borderland 7

II: The Borderlanders 19

III: The Borderlandists 34

Conclusion 56

Bibliography 62

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