No visit to Dublin is complete without spending a couple of hours visiting Trinity College with its incredable library and beautiful buildings.
As you walk through the main gate and walk around you may like to think back on its history.
Trinity College was founded in 1592 it was created by royal charter, at which point Dublin Corporation provided a suitable site, the former Priory of All Hallows. A group of citizens, lay and clerical, who were main promoters, believed the establishment of a university was an essential step in bringing Ireland into the mainstream of European learning and in strengthening the Protestant Reformation within the country.
During the next fifty years the community grew. New fellowships founded. The international reputation of Ussher, one of its first alumni, helped place the College on the European map. The college existence was gravely threatened at two points in the seventeenth century. First when central government collapsed in the wake of the 1641 rising followed by the temporary eclipse of the Church of Ireland in the wake of Cromwell's victories. Secondly the events of 1689/91, when Tyrconnell's short lived Catholic government closed the university, expelled the fellows and students, and converted the buildings into a Jacobite barracks. The library thankfully was spared.
The next century was a time of political stability in Ireland, thanks to the political power held by the land-owning and largely Church of Ireland upper class, so the College was in material terms a great beneficiary from this state of affairs. In 1712 -32 a massive new library was built. A string of other buildings followed over the years. These buildings reflected a seriousness of purpose absent from English universities of that era.
Catholics were permitted to enter and take degrees from 1793. Not for the last time, political controversy in the world outside came to be reflected among the student body in the lead-up to the 1798 rebellion, in which ex-students were involved on both sides, most famously Wolfe Tone.
During the sixty-year war of attrition between British governments and the Catholic hierarchy over higher education policy in Ireland, Trinity struggled to accommodate itself to a changing Ireland. Between 1873 and 1908 different ideas were proposed that would have made the College a member of a federated Irish (or Dublin) university; these were strenuously and effectively resisted as threats to its independence. As part of this, the College gradually re-positioned itself to become a non-denominational institution: In 1873 all religious tests (except those connected with the Divinity School) were abolished.
The First World War marked a general turning point in the College's fortunes, the human cost recognised in the hall of honour (1928), erected in Front Square. The Easter Rising of 1916 had engulfed the College environs, and Trinity was lucky to escape serious physical damage. However, wartime inflation and the erosion of its assets threatened the College's peacetime future. In the new Free State that emerged after the War of Independence in 1922. Trinity lacked the support of government that it had always enjoyed, and the new national administration, financially weak and recover from civil war, had more pressing priorities. Trinity College Dublin found itself without the revenues required to advance research and scholarship in what was an increasingly science-centred world.
After the end of the Second World War the university once again sought financial support from government and it was promptly given. That modest agreement in 1947 marks the beginning of TCD's transition towards becoming a large state-funded university. However due to continuing church restrictions on Catholic attendance, the College increased its enrollment of students from Britain and the United States.
The real growth in student numbers began in the 1970's, reflecting the introduction of free second-level education and of third-level student grants plus the removal of the Catholic episcopal 'ban'. The widening career opportunities for women and a stronger underlying economy in Ireland.
In 1993 the College also began to boost recruitment from within Dublin city by developing a series of access programmes (TAP). The aim was to raise the number of young adults from socio-economic and ethnic groups underrepresented in higher education coming to university. At the same time, new efforts were made to recruit mature students. By 2009-10, over 15 per cent of all Irish entrants to the university were 'non-traditional' students, two-fifths of whom were in the mature category.
This is just a small summery of the history of Trinity College. It has survived the up's and downs of history. It stands proud and beautiful.
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