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Prof. Peter Gray Queen’s University Belfast. Three aspects:  Economic developments  Perceptions of the Irish economy and the politics of the economy.

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Presentation on theme: "Prof. Peter Gray Queen’s University Belfast. Three aspects:  Economic developments  Perceptions of the Irish economy and the politics of the economy."— Presentation transcript:

1 Prof. Peter Gray Queen’s University Belfast

2 Three aspects:  Economic developments  Perceptions of the Irish economy and the politics of the economy  Economic policy

3 What was the ‘Irish economy’?  A regional economy within UK?  A series of regional economies within Ireland?  A Irish national economy?  A colonial economy?  A global economy? Irish railway network, 1900

4 1. An era of boom c.1793-1815 2. An era of malaise c.1815-45 3. An era of catastrophe 1845-52 4. An era of rising expectations c.1852-77 5. An era of rural conflict c.1878-1903 6. The eclipse of economics? c.1903-1921

5 1. A regime of population growth c.1793-1845 2. A regime of demographic collapse c.1845-51 3. A regime of sustained decline c.1852-1921


7 Domestic textile production in Ulster, late 18thC

8  1793-1815 wars boost Irish agriculture through high demand and rising food prices  Growing shift from pasture to tillage and increasing grain exports to GB  Ireland as Britain’s ‘bread basket’ from 1790s  Growing landowning expenditure and indebtedness  Increased labour-power and potato- cultivation the basis of Irish tillage expansion

9  Subdivision of landholdings promotes rapid rural population growth from 1770s: early marriage  ‘Cottier’ peasants on 5-10 acre holdings rented yearly  ‘Conacre’ labourers rent 1-5 acre potato land in return for labour  Growing reliance on potato subsistence ‘Clachan’ settlement, Derrynane, Co. Kerry, 1845

10  Linen industry expands rapidly from 1770s  Primarily a cottage industry in spinning and weaving, but boosts commercial centres such as Belfast, Derry, Newry and Dublin  Also promotes rapid subdivision and population growth  Epicentre of proto-industrialisation in Co. Armagh  Development of early cotton manufacturing in Belfast, Dublin, Co. Cork 1780s-1820s  First shipyards open in Belfast 1790s Green Linen Hall Belfast (c 1834)

11 Cottier’s cabin, Co. Kerry, 1845

12  1815 Corn Laws fail to protect Ireland from growing competition  Currency deflation creates debt crisis  Harsher landlord-tenant relations increase rural conflict  Expanding grain exports to 1830s make some richer…  But leave ‘cottiers’ and labouring poor impoverished and vulnerable  Emigration starts to rise (c.1.5m 1815-45) Potatoes being taken to market, Co. Kerry 1845

13 Ireland subject to intensified British competition post-1815 Irish cotton and woolens production collapses 1820s Mechanisation of linen spinning develops from mid-1820s in Belfast Retreat of linen production into ‘linen triangle’ of east Ulster from 1820s Small textile producers in NW, SW and midlands thrown back into dependence on agriculture Collapse of industry in Dublin 1826

14  Union followed by measures of economic assimilation  Abolition of Irish pound and exchequer 1816  Full free-trade between Ireland and GB 1824  1826 Subletting Act seeks to create English- style landless labouring class  Preference for laissez-faire, especially under Tories  Crisis response to regional famines, 1817, 1822, 1831

15  Increase infrastructural spending from c.1815  Irish Board of Works 1831 - develops Shannon waterway, roads and harbours  National Board of Education 1831 - offers non-denominational primary education  Irish Poor Law 1838 - 130 union workhouses with basic relief of ‘destitute’ - some assistance to dispensaries, hospitals  Irish Railway Commission Report 1838  Devon Commission Report 1845  But constraints of laissez-faire

16 Soup Kitchen queue, 1847

17  Potato crop hit by fungal blight phytopthora infestans  Partial failures 1845, 1848, 1849  Total failure 1846  Shortfall of 12m tonnes of potatoes by 1846-7: a real food crisis  Continuing food exports 1846 cause uproar  Failure of affordable imports to meet ‘food gap’ 1846-7  Prices falling with growing imports 1847-50, but ‘crisis of entitlements’ means continuing famine

18  Famine accompanied by devastating epidemic diseases and fevers  Large numbers of deaths from late 1846-spring 1849  Late and inadequate state response hampered by laissez- faire ideology  Some, but never adequate, private charity  Coincides with industrial downturn in GB 1847-9 Charitable relief in Co. Clare, 1849

19  Relatively generous aid 1845-6  Withdrawal from interference in food markets from 1846  Relief through public works (1846- 7); soup kitchens (summer 1847)  Poor Law Extension Act 1847  Encumbered Estates Act 1849 places burden of Irish recovery on ‘free trade in land’  Some relief from famine debts 1853, in return for extension of income tax Punch on British aid, 1846

20  1.1m ‘excess deaths’ 1846- 51 (1/8 of population)  1m emigrants 1846-51  Crisis accompanied by widespread ‘clearances’ by landlords  Population decline highest in western counties  Legacy of trauma and political anger in Ireland and its diaspora


22  Agriculture shifts increasingly to cattle raising and export  Ireland increasingly tied into global market trends  Some rise in living standards, but subject to sharp recessions 1859-63, 1877-80  Expansion of commerce, shops, credit, literacy  But continuing poverty and high emigration especially from rural west  Five million emigrants 1851-1914  Tensions between ‘improving’ landlords and tenant farmers, especially early 1850s, later 1860s, later 1870s – forces Gladstone’s first land act, 1870

23  Specialised development of linen industry  Harland and Wolff shipyard established 1861  Diversification into engineering, rope making  Population of Belfast more than triples to 386,000 1851-1911  Draws in population from rural Ulster Harland and Wolff, Belfast: one of world’s largest shipyards by 1900

24 Eviction scene, 1881

25  Agricultural crisis 1877-80  The ‘Land War’ 1879-82, led by Irish National Land League  Features ‘boycotts’, rent strikes, initimidation, riots  1881 Land Act grants ‘3Fs’ (fair rent; fixity of tenure; freedom of sale of tenant right)  1882 Arrears Act  Land War curbs powers of landlords, but fails to deliver full demands of small farmers and labourers Attack on a ‘process server’, 1880

26  Further agrarian depressions 1884-9, late 1890s  ‘Plan of Campaign’ agitation 1886-90  United Irish League agitation 1898-1901  Conservatives accept principle of land purchase from 1885  Wyndham’s Land Act 1903 begins mass purchase of farms by occupying tenants with state loans – completed 1920s Anti-landlord cartoon, 1882

27 New Creamery, Killeshandra, Co. Cavan, 1911

28  1885 Ashbourne Land Act  1903 Wyndham Land Act  1891 Congested Districts Board seeks to promote development in west  Sir Horace Plunkett promotes agricultural co- operation through Irish Agricultural Organisation Society (1894)  1899 Irish Department of Agriculture established  Widespread establishment of creameries

29  Growing concerns over urban slums – Iveagh Trust in Dublin  Emergence of mass labour movement:  1907 Belfast dock strike;  1909 ITGWU formed;  1913 Dublin lockout strike  James Larkin promotes Irish syndicalism  Marxist James Connolly attempts to tie Irish Labour movement to Republicanism, Easter 1916  But Labour damaged by national/sectarian divisions James Connolly

30  ‘Ranch War’ 1906-9, but land radicalism increasingly marginal  Sinn Féin demand for Irish economic autarky from c.1905 – part of ‘Irish Ireland’ movement  1916 Proclamation contains vague socio-economic promises  Dáil Éireann appeals to labour through 1919 ‘Democratic Programme’  ‘Labour must wait’ 1919-21 Arthur Griffith, leader of Sinn Féin, 1905-17

31  High water mark of Ulster heavy industry: RMS Titanic launched 1912  Belfast businessmen fund Ulster Unionism  Argument that Ulster prosperity based on Union and empire  First World War reinforces economic differences of ‘two Irelands’  But collapse of Belfast’s heavy industry after 1920 Titanic propellers, Belfast 1912

32  Lasting trauma of Great Famine  Considerable economic advances from 1850  Irish living standards above most of E and S Europe (but below GB and US)  Land issue mostly resolved by mid-1920s  Continuing high structural emigration  Significant poverty in rural west and urban areas  IFS heavily dependent on agricultural exports to GB  NI dependent on outdated heavy industry

33  Visit QUB’s interactive website: Irish History Live

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