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Ulster Museum

Modern History

The Modern History gallery explores the making of Ulster through the period 1500 to 1968. It reveals not only turbulent times of war and conflict, but also long periods of peaceful development and progress.

Permanent display

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The Modern History exhibition tells the story of the historic province of Ulster from 1500 to 1968.

The gallery is divided into five sections:

1500 – 1700 The Birth of the Modern Era

In the 1600s, thousands of people from England and Scotland were encouraged to come and be ‘planted’ in Ulster. This created a new type of society as the old Gaelic rulers were replaced with new settlers loyal to Britain. Northern Ireland’s present day cultural diversity can be traced to this era.

1700 – 1800 Between Two Revolutions

Our view of the eighteenth century in Ireland is often dominated by the major rebellion in 1798. But during the 1700s Ireland enjoyed over a century of largely peaceful development and progress.

1800 – 1900 Industrial Giant and the Shadow of Poverty

In the 1800s, industry expanded in the north east of Ulster and Belfast grew dramatically. This brought great prosperity and wealth, but at a price. Many people lived in the shadow of poverty in poor housing, experiencing harsh working conditions in the mills and factories.

1900 – 1923 From Home Rule to Partition

Political divisions in Ireland came to a head in the period before, during and after the First World War. This was a revolutionary period of change, accelerated by the impact of the war itself. 1916 was the pivotal year of the war for Ireland, witnessing both the Easter Rising in Dublin and the Battle of the Somme on the Western Front.

1923 – 1968 Living on a Divided Island

Following partition in 1921, both Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State struggled in a global economic downturn. Security concerns dominated in an atmosphere of distrust. The pace of social change grew after the Second World War. The 1960s began with much optimism, with new international influences making an impact. But the campaign for civil rights in Northern Ireland descended into bitter civil strife amidst local opposition.