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Pre-Famine Ireland: Social Structure Copyright 2000 by Desmond Keenan Hard copy of book available from and

Pre-Famine Ireland: Social Structure

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        This is an account of the social and economic background to Irish history in the early nineteenth century. Traditional nationalist accounts skipped over many details which did not fit into the propaganda. Statements  like 'The British Government packed the jury to secure the verdict they wanted' glossed over many facts. One could ask what was the British Government doing in Ireland? Was there no Irish Government? Who picked the jury? Who were the jurymen? Who were the judges? How were they appointed? Who was in charge of prosecution? What were the courts like? Were there any lawyers? How were they trained? What was their role in the courts? Who was responsible for gathering the evidence?

    Similarly, with regard to allegations of harsh and evicting landlords one can ask What was the legal tenure of land? Were there legally enforced leases? What were rents actually like? Were evictions frequent? Were they made without cause? Was sub-division of land an evil? Could Catholics be landlords? Were all landlords anti-Irish? Were the Irish Catholic farmers like the serfs in Russia?

    With regard to the economy one can question Was Ireland was poor and backward? Did the British Government deliberately keep it backward? How did it compare with other Countries. What were its manufactures? What was its trade like?

    This is an exercise in historical sociology. When all the evidence was systematically gathered and examined there was little left of the nationalists' picture of an occupied and down-trodden country.


Copyright Desmond J. Keenan, B.S.Sc.; Ph.D. ;.London, U.K.