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date: 15 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Research over the last half-century by a tiny band of economic historians has transformed our understanding of social change in Ireland between the Cromwellian era and Catholic Emancipation. Where once the emphasis was on rural stagnation, universal poverty, and a rack-renting Ascendancy class, now the picture is of complex social stratification, regional contrast and a sharp distinction between good times and the years of famine and social dislocation. The big question as to when and why Irish population began to grow so rapidly has not been entirely answered, but it is now clear that the socio-economic changes in town and countryside were not very different from those found in ancien régime Europe where buoyant Atlantic trade became a catalyst for capitalist accumulation and proto-industrial development. The causal links between such long-term structural changes and the extreme political tensions of the 1790s remain among the more tantalizing bits of unfinished business.

Keywords: demography, cottier, linen, urbanization, famine

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