The first half of the 18th century saw only modest economic growth, interrupted by disastrous famines in 1728-9 and 1740-1. Thereafter, there was a rapid growth in exports both of agricultural produce, destined for markets in North America and the Carribean, and of linen cloth. Rising prosperity was evident in the growth of population, rapid urban development, and the creation of a consumer culture. There was also a quickening of cultural life, reflecting in part the influence of the European Enlightenment. Meanwhile a combination of religious disadvantage, social dislocation, and economic expansion carried Irish men and women to mainland Europe, the Caribbean, and North America in a diaspora possibly without parallel in early modern Europe.
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