New Book Building the Irish Courthouse and Prison: a political history, 1750-1850 by Richard Butler. Cork University Press

This book is the first national history of the building of some of Ireland’s most important historic public buildings. Focusing on the former assize courthouses and county gaols, it tells a political history of how they were built, who paid for them, and the effects they had on urban development in Ireland.

Using extensive archival sources, it delves in unprecedented detail into the politics and personalities of county grand jurors, Protestant landed society, government prison inspectors, charities, architects, and engineers, who together oversaw a wave of courthouse and prison construction in Ireland in an era of turbulent domestic and international change. It investigates the extent to which these buildings can be seen as the legacy of the British or imperial state, especially after the Act of Union, and thus contributes to ongoing debates within post-colonial studies regarding the built environment.

Richly illustrated with over 300 historic drawings, photographs and maps, this book analyses how and why these historic buildings came to exist. It discusses crime, violence and political and agrarian unrest in Ireland during the years when Protestant elites commissioned such extensive new public architecture. The book will be of interest to academic and popular audiences curious to learn more about Irish politics, culture, society and especially its rich architectural heritage.

Review: This is a very significant contribution to the world of Irish political and architectural history, enriched and enlivened by an abundance of illustrations, photographs and drawings, many previously unpublished. The appendix (building histories) is remarkably comprehensive and will provide an excellent source for all kinds of disciplines. This book will provide a genuinely unique view on the construction and political history of these civic institutions between the mid-eighteenth and nineteenth century. Its uniqueness is derived from the forensic investigation into primary sources (both written and visual) carried out by the author. Nothing to this extent has been done before now.
Livia Hurley, University College Dublin

Richard Butler is a Lecturer in the Historic Built Environment, Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester.

July 2020 | 9781782053699 | €39 £35| Hardback |250 x 195mm  | 652 pages   | 300 illustrations