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The Picture Postcard

A new window into Edwardian Ireland


Ann Wilson

The Picture Postcard, a new window into Edwardian Ireland uses the material culture of the picture postcard as a lens through which to examine life on the island of Ireland during the Edwardian period (1902-10). Picture postcards became extremely popular worldwide at the start of the twentieth century, when literally hundreds of billions of them were produced and sold.

This book draws on postcard collections to access the everyday lives of people who rarely make it into conventional historical narratives, and to make connections in an Irish context between their «small histories» and broader, well-studied discourses such as identity, nationalism, empire, modernity, emigration, tourism and the roles of women.


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Chapter 5 Ireland and the wider world: Travel, emigration and tourism


Even in the early twentieth century, when picture postcards were frequently used for everyday communication between people who lived near each other, they were also closely associated with travel. Added text on postcards from the period often concerns travel arrangements, the imagery was frequently chosen to represent places where people travelled to, or sometimes the means by which they did so (such as pictures of ships and trains), and the cards could be used to maintain communication across geographical distances. Developments in transport meant that people at all economic levels could travel more, faster and further than previously, and this was the case in Ireland too. People travelled to visit relatives or friends, for holidays, for work or in pursuit of better life opportunities. While emigration from Ireland had slowed down since the post-Famine years it was nevertheless still very significant, and, as in other countries, there was also migration from rural to urban areas as well as increased leisure travel.

Emigration was considered by many to be the defining, and determining, feature of Irish life in the early twentieth century. The French writer on Ireland Louis Paul-Dubois described it in 1907 as an ‘Exodus’: ‘The Exodus of the Irish from Ireland; the Exodus which, during the last sixty years, has torn from her no less than 5,300,000 of her children; which, even now, draws away from her about one per cent of her population in ←143 | 144→each succeeding year.’1 The Irish population is estimated...

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