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Mapping Ulster – Monday at 10.35pm on BBC One NI

Date Posted: April 25, 2013

Four hundred years ago, one of the most intensively mapped regions in the entire world was not the new territories of the Americas, or the exotic spice trails of the Far East. It was a place much closer to home – Ulster – among the first state colonisations of the new Great Britain.

Mapping Ulster is a fascinating documentary made for BBC Northern Ireland by Hardy Pictures, which unearths a treasure trove of maps and stories dramatically revealing the foundation of the Ulster we live in today.

In this programme on BBC One Northern Ireland on Monday, April 29 at 10.35pm, leading Renaissance and mapping historian, Professor Jerry Brotton, explores Northern Ireland’s vivid origins, tracing the arrival and impact of Scots and English migrants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, through a unique collection of extraordinary maps.

From the first settlements on the Ards Peninsula, to the London Companies’ corporate development of the lands around Derry, each map tells its own story: of war and conquest, of an influx of entrepreneurs and adventurers and of a wild landscape transformed into a network of towns.

Collectively, the maps provide an extraordinary eye witness guide to one of the most turbulent periods in Ulster’s history.

Jerry’s quest takes him from the archives and great houses of Northern Ireland to a series of stunning locations across Ulster, Scotland and London.

He visits the inaugural site of the O’Neills at Tullahogue, the ancient woodland at Drumlamph, he walks Londonderry’s city walls, visits the North Down Museum in Bangor and investigates the castle and town at Killyleagh.

The programme also uses 21st Century technology to bring historic maps to life, animating detailed artwork of conquest and land development, analysing social and economic data woven into the fabric of the maps, and using satellite imagery to pull 400-year-old landscapes into the present.

Professor Jerry Brotton says of his experience: “Maps offer a unique window into the past, and nowhere more than in the extraordinary collection that charts the history of Ulster from the late sixteenth century.

“Filming ‘Mapping Ulster’ across Northern Ireland last summer gave me a fascinating insight into both the geography and the history of Ulster. I saw at first-hand how much had changed – but also what had endured – in the region over the past 400 years.

“As a cartographic historian I had seen early maps of Ulster, from speculative Elizabethan maps of the north of Ireland, through Richard Bartlett’s maps, showing the military campaigns of the Nine Years’ War to Thomas Raven’s maps of the settlement of Londonderry in the 1620s. But what amazed me was the extraordinary beauty of many of these maps, and how instrumental they were to the profound changes that took place to the landscape and people of Ulster throughout this defining moment in its history.”

The film’s producer/director Andrea McCartney observes: “It’s difficult to imagine the world of 400 years ago. The maps help make that leap. The map-makers are artists. They have drawn the timber-framed houses, the forests, the castles and noted the names of the people who lived there; the detail is incredible. They were as innovative in their time as satellite mapping technology is today. What’s really exciting is that they provide a visual record and fresh perspective on the plantation of Ulster.”

Mapping Ulster is a Hardy Pictures production for BBC Northern Ireland, part-funded by Northern Ireland Screen’s Ulster-Scots Broadcast Fund.

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