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Ireland: A New Economic History 1780–1939$
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Cormac Gráda Ó

Print publication date: 1995

Print ISBN-13: 9780198205982

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198205982.001.0001

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A False Dawn? Population and Living Standards, 1780–1815

A False Dawn? Population and Living Standards, 1780–1815

(p.3) 1 A False Dawn? Population and Living Standards, 1780–1815
Ireland: A New Economic History 1780–1939

Cormac Ó Gráda

Oxford University Press

Both before and after the Great Famine of the 1840s, Ireland has offered a particularly vivid case study for historians regarding the link between population and economy. Before the famine, the fear was of population outstripping what the soil could yield in food; later it was of the link between a declining population and poor economic performance that historians looked towards. Pre-famine demographic patterns seemed to imply that poverty prompted people to marry sooner, but the popular historiographical image of the post-famine Irish is of a people traumatized into becoming the most marriage-shy in Europe. This chapter examines the ideas of the great English economist Thomas Malthus, discusses the living standards in Ireland between 1780 and 1815, and assesses the argument that Irish poverty during this period was mitigated by a plentiful supply of healthy food (potatoes) and fuel (turf).

Keywords:   Ireland, Thomas Maltus, population, economy, marriage, Great Famine, food, demographic patterns, poverty, living standards

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