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Home » Conference review » Conference Review: The Economic and Social History Society of Ireland (ESHI) 21-22 November 2014, St. Patricks College, Drumcondra, Dublin.

Conference Review: The Economic and Social History Society of Ireland (ESHI) 21-22 November 2014, St. Patricks College, Drumcondra, Dublin.

By David Gahan

The Economic and Social History Society of Ireland formed in 1970, promotes the study of economic and social history in Ireland. It publishes a peer reviewed academic journal, Economic and Social History, a pamphlet series and organises an annual conference.

Prof. James Raven gave the Connell lecture, ‘Publishing business in eighteenth-century Ireland’ which looked at the role of jobbing printers whose numbers saw an increase in Dublin from three in 1690 to fifty-three in 1787.

In keeping with the economic theme there was a very interesting session on ‘Policy and economic development in the twentieth and twenty first centuries’, in which three of the papers dealt with relatively contemporary issues. Niall Curran (UCD) gave a very informative paper on the Kenny Report and the question of development land in Ireland 1963-75. Measures taken by governments to stem price inflation of development land which resulted in the Kenny Report of 1974, which recommended limited price control for development land and why this report was not implemented, were outlined. Ciarán Casey (Oxford) provided a very interesting paper on what domestic organisations, the Central Bank and the ESRI published about the economy from 2000 to 2006. Both organisations were concerned about the over reliance of the economy on construction, but both underestimated what a ‘collapse’ would entail, suggesting a drop to between 40,000 and 50,000 housing units being built, while in reality it fell to 8,500. Despite some warnings, the Central Bank continued to argue that the financial system was inherently stable. The monetary policy of the Irish Central Bank under successive governors Joseph Brennan 1943-53, James J. McElligott 1953-60 and Maurice Moynihan 1961-8, was thoroughly examined by Dr. Ella Kavanagh (UCC). Rebecca Stuart of the Central Bank finished this session with a paper on ‘Stock returns in Ireland, the UK, and the US, 1864-1930.

An excellent paper by Dr. Daithí Ó Corrian (SPD), ‘loss and compensation in the aftermath of the 1916 Rising’ looked at an aspect of a period not often considered. He outlined the work of the Property Losses Committee 1916, which was established in June to access compensation claims. The British government admitted liability and paid out £1.8 m on claims ranging from destruction of buildings, loss of tools, jewellery and a consignment of butter. Brian Casey (UCD) delivered an informative paper on the struggles between the Fenians and the Catholic Church, centring around the candidature and election to Westminster of the Fenian John O’Connor Power, for Mayo in 1874. Declan O’Keeffe (Clongowes) gave a paper on Jesuit publications in Ireland, 1873-1912, detailing how they promoted the Jesuit mission.

There were two papers on the Mount St. Lawrence Cemetery Project in Limerick from Matthew Potter (Limerick Corporation) and Helene Bradley Davies (MIC).

Robyn Atcheson (QUB) gave a paper on charity in pre-Poor Law Belfast which looked at various charitable organisations from poorhouses to self-help schemes set up in the city before 1838. Prof. Thomas Callahan (Rider U. New Jersey) detailed the arrival of the famine Irish in New York; how many ended up in the Five Points area with its cheap accommodation and that by 1850 there were more Irish in New York than in Dublin. Also explored was some of the less well known history of their unhappy experiences in Liverpool while awaiting embarkation to the US. The conference finished on the Famine theme, Ciarán Reilly (Maynooth) gave a very informative paper about the often undocumented role of land agents attempts to improve agriculture prior to the famine. He outlined examples of this in Offaly, of improvements at Tullamore and the introduction of new cattle breeds such as Ayrshires, but also that many landlords were reluctant to make improvements. ‘Who ate Ireland’s food during the Famine?’ by Charles Read (Cambridge) was an interesting paper suggesting that the responsibility for high food prices during the famine came not from domestic demand, but from imported high prices, influenced by demand in France for corn.

Further reading:

The Economic and Social History of Ireland Society website, available at http://www.eshsi.org/


My main research is in political and socio-economic developments in twentieth century Ireland and the wider world. I have a BA in History and English from 2012, from St. Patricks College, Drumcondra. I am currently a PhD student at the Department of History at NUI Maynooth. My thesis which is being supervised by Prof. Terence Dooley, examines the agitation surrounding the land annuities 1926-32. It aims to look at the economic effect of annuities on farmers and on political developments, particularly the positions adopted by the various political parties and how this impacted on the wider Irish political context.



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