Belfast dates back to the early 17th century and, although a relatively young settlement, is Northern Ireland’s largest, and the island of Ireland’s second largest, city. The name ‘Belfast’ comes from the Gaelic ‘Beal Feirste’ (‘mouth of the sandy ford’).
1641-49 & 1688-90 Two major Catholic risings are put down, first by English Protestant revolutionary Oliver Cromwell, then the Dutch King William lll of Orange. The fledgling Protestant plantation is secured and Ireland becomes firmly British.
18th Century Belfast becomes a major linen-producing centre, earning the tag Linenopolis.
19th Century Belfast experiences a ‘golden age’ under Queen Victoria. The Harland & Wolff shipyard is founded in 1862 and city status is granted in 1888. Belfast becomes one of the world’s leading industrial cities and most of its great buildings are constructed. The 1847 Famine re-awakens Irish Catholic Nationalism.
Early 20th Century In May 1911 RMS Titanic is launched from Harland & Wolff. The following year the White Star liner sinks on its maiden voyage, killing over 1500 passengers.
1912 The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) is formed and Unionists sign the Ulster Covenant, pledging to militarily fight Home Rule.
1914-1918 The UVF, and most of the Irish Volunteers, joins up to fight for Britain - both hoping to gain support for their causes. In 1916 Ulster Divisions suffer heavy causalities at the Battle of the Somme.
1921 Following the 1919-21 Irish War of Independence, six of Ireland’s 32 counties remain British and the state - or Province - is named Northern Ireland. Belfast becomes its capital city and the Unionist-controlled government oversees direct rule from the purpose-built Stormont.
1941 Belfast Blitz. During WW2, the city is bombed three times by the German Luftwaffe, killing 955 people and destroying 3,200 homes. Northern Ireland becomes a staging post for over 300,000 American Gis.
Machinery and equipment manufacturing, food processing, textile and electronics manufacturing are the leading industries in northern ireland. Other industries such as papermaking, furniture manufacturing, aerospace and shipbuilding are also important, concentrated mostly in the eastern parts of Northern Ireland.