Cormac Ó Grada, Ireland: A New Economic History 1780-1939, Clarendon Press 1994, pb. 1995, 534 with index; […]

Part III] ‘An Gorta Mór: The Great Famine, 1845-50’, pp.174-209; quotes Horace Plunkett’s maxim that ‘Irish history was for Englishmen to remember, or Irishmen to forget’; remarks the paucity of sources; comments, ‘Meanwhile, popular understanding of the Famine in Ireland (as reflected, for example, in the film version of John B. Keane’s The Field) still follows the populist-nationalist paradigm. In this oversimplified view, the excess mortality of the late 1840s was entirely, or almost entirely, due to a negligent government and cruel landlords. Exaggerated reports about “coffin-ships” ferrrying emigrants to their doom and about Queen Victoria’s miserliness persist, and their mythic contribution shold not be underestimated. It is the historian’s function to debunk those myths, even when they are being put to a “good” cause.’; speaks of ‘subconscious communal scruple about famine deaths; comments on a tendency to ‘remove the Famine from the centre stragte of nineteenth-century history’ on the basis that the trends were inevitable [176] comments on historian’s equivocal attitude citing Foster’s doubts about Mokyr’s figures in one place and his use of them in another to urge a regionalist view of the crisis [178]

Quotes Mitchel’s saying that Ireland ‘died of political economy’’ [187]; disputes Mokyr’s view that ‘the Famine was less a national disaster than a social and regional one’, remarking, ‘No country in Irland escaped excess mortality, thogh the Famine’s impact was very uneven regionally. [185]; quotes Nassau Senior: ‘For we may be sure that, if we allow the cancer of pauperism to complete the distruction of Ireland, and then to throw fresh venom into the already predisposed body of England, the ruin of all that makes England worth livingin is a question only of time.’ [Senior, Journals, Essays and Conversations Relating to Ireland, 1868, Vol. I, p.264; here 192]; bibl., Richard Whately, A Few Words of Remonstrance and Advice Addressed to the Farming and Labouring Classes of Ireland (1848) [193]

Notes discrepancy between cost of subsistence at 2s or 3s per diem and the 8d per diem rate which was observed to be the standard wage [196]; ‘The most obvous questions about Irish famine relief – how many lives were saved by actual outlays and how much more it would have cost to save some or most of the lives lost – are probably unanswerable.’ [198]

‘The potato had accounted for a quarter of Irishs agricultural output, and the shortfall was certainly not made good by a rise in corn or livestock output.’ [199]; speaks of the salutary effect of focussing on ‘class and distributional considerations, too long taboo in irish historiography … invit[ing] historians to look more deeply into the part played by farmers, shopkeepers, and townspeople – or, more generally, the middle classes - in preventing or exacerbating mortality.’ [202]; tackles Marx’s chapter in Das Kapital taking Ireland as a case-study in the general law of capitalist accumulation [205]; refers to the ‘convergence theory’ of national productivity according to which the incomes of the poor ought eventually match those of the rich since the poor have access to the technology developed by the rich and to their own cheaper labour; ‘Whether trends in the real world today bear out such hopes is a much-debated question. For an earlier era, the Great Irish Famine is a grim reminder of now narrowly the benefits of the first Industrial Revolution had been spread by the 1840s. Nearly a half-century of political and economic union had made little or no impression on the huge gap between Irish and British incomes, nor was it enough to shield Ireland from cataclysm.’ [209]; ending a comparison with Finland, ‘The difference is captured symbolically in the contrasting fates of the statue of Queen Victoria that once graced Leinster Lawn in Dublin and that of Tsar Alexander II, whose reign straddled the Finnish famine. Victoria is now half a world away in Australia, but Alexander still dominates one of Helsinki’s most elegant squares.’ [209]

Quotes Thomas Davis: ‘Before this generation dies, it must have made Ireland’s rivers navigable and its hundred harbours secure with beacon and pier, and thronged with seamen educated in navla schools, and familiar with every rig and every ocean. Aringa must be pierced with shafts, and Bonmahon flaming with smelting-houses. Our bogs must have become turf factories … Our coal must move a thousand engines, our rivers a thousand wheels. (Davis, c.1845; cited in Cormac Ó Grada, Ireland: A New Economic History, 1994 [p. edn. 1995], p.273.)

Robert Brooke’s venture into mechanised cotton-spinning at Prosperous, Co. Kildare, in 1780 raised an obscure and scanty trade into a great national manufacture’ [275]; That Brooke was no businessman is indicated by his choice for a factory on a virgin site in the middle of a bog twenty miles from Dublin. Nevertheless, in an era of lax public accountability, he obtained vast subsidies from the public purse for a time. When his request for further support was refused in 1786, his project collapsed. [275]; goes on to comment on the advantage of access to the large British market over the small Irish market, indicated by the survival of small Lancashire mills into the 1840s [27]; cites the Malcolmson enterprise of Portlaw, Co. Waterford, 1826 [278]; Gallaher, the tobacco manufacturer in Belfast, for a time the largest such concern in the world [306]; ‘The adjustment problems besetting the Irish economy after Waterloo were thus exacerbated by industrial decline throughout mufh of the island’ [308]; ‘slow pace of town growth would seem to have ruled out much industrialisation in the towns [308]

Davis: Dr Kane [Resources, 1845] shows that the precious baltic iron, for which from 15 to 35 per ton is given, could be equalled by Irish iron smelted by turf for six guineas per ton.’ (Cited in Griffith, Thomas Davis, The Thinker and Teacher, 1916, p.182; here 315); comments that Kane’s denial that a lack of natural resources explained Ireland’s failure to industrialse was ‘based … in part on an oversanguine assessment of the country’s coal and peat resources’ [315]; according to Kane, the Munster coalfield was ‘the most extensive development of the coal strata in the British Empire’ but efforts at working it proved costly and fruitless [317]; Kane also enthused about the value of copper, lead, and precious mineral deposits [318]; “The Turf Question” [13.2], pp.321-24; epigraph, ‘Dá mbeadh prátaí is móin, bheadh an saol ar a thóin againn [if only we had potatoes and turf, life would be rosy’]

3 million acres [321]; 1920 estimate placed the endowment of turf at between 3 and 4 billion tons or 250 times the then annual total fuel requirement [321]; for Kane ‘our bogs may become, under the influence of an enlightened energy, sources of industry and eminently productive’ [here 323]; records attempts to compress turf, and the admission of the Dept. of Scientific and Industrial Research in 1921 that the bogs were being used for fuel only when coal was unavailable; the Dept.,. sick of ‘magical schemes’, focused on whether the best-located turf could compete with coal. The record was such that ‘the public has lost confidence in any scheme for the utilisation of the bogs, and it would be difficult to attract private capital for such work.’ (PRO; here 323-24); ‘Turf was given every opportunity to prove itself as an industrial fuel during the nineteenth century, and it failed.’ [324]

Further, ‘Violent crimes against property and the person were somewhat more common in Ireland than in England and Wales on the eve of the Famine, but the differences were not striking. The higher Irish propensity to murder barely outstripped the English. The higher incidence of crimes against the person reflects the far greater frequency of ritual faction-fighting and interfamilial brawling in Ireland. McCabe has put it well: “the likelihood is that Irish society was merely rowdier than elsewhere in the British Isles.” Such crimes, “mindless” in the sense that [332] they had no clear economic focus or target, hardly interfereed directly with investment in manufacturing.’ [333]

‘Agrarian crime earned separate attention in official statistics, and was a constant focus of comment .. If unrest is interpreted as a reaction to modernisation, then a chronological patter whereby the locus of unrest gradually moved frm mature east to less developed west is suggested. Not until 1870s and 1880s would Connacht be similarly affected. […]. Qualitative accounts of the unrest have not been short of explanations either. The traditional emphasis on “moral economy” and communalist ideology has given way to accounts that stress the individualistic motivation of agrarian crime.’ [334]; concludes that ‘the Terry Alt uprising, like the Captain Swing revolt in England, was basically a labourer’s [sic] protest’ [335]; indicates that the Terry Alt rising stimulated Vandeleur to expedite plans for an Owenite commune at Ralahine, S. Co. Clare; driven to desperation by the murder ofhis own steward allegedly for attempting to introduce a mechanical reaper; himself one of 30 Clare magistrates to petition for a re-enactment of the Insurrection Act [335]

Quotes at some length Joseph Lee’s [Statist, 1893] comment on the fate of Irish share issues: ‘No sooner does a compnay come with its 1 share offered at par […] than benevolent speculators push up the quotation to a big premium, in some cases as much as 200 or 300% in a very few hours and this inflation in patent rights must in a great many directions result in loss and disappointment … we are given to understand that promoters whose antecedents are not altogether pleasant in regard to bringing our undertakings in London and the provinces in this country have devoted their attention to the unsophisticated Irish. This attitude to the Irish is really a bouleversement of the old fashion[ed] cry of “no Irish need apply”.’ [376]

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