Irish Land War

I'm posting this on behalf of one of our hard-working volunteers, Heather Schubert.

During my time volunteering at the Archives, I’ve been cataloging miscellaneous pamphlets from the late nineteenth century into PastPerfect, which are now accessible in the PAHRC's online catalog. Within these hundreds of pamphlets are speeches given by members of the clergy, last will and testaments, and booklets on a variety of topics. I recently came across a number of documents related to the “Irish Question.”

The Irish Question, concerning Irish nationalism and independence, spanned the time period from around the mid 19th to the mid 20th century. Religion and politics were both prominent topics in this time of conflict, but most of the pamphlets I’ve cataloged so far relate to the Land War in Ireland over the centuries old landlordism system.

By 1879, about 800 families owned half of the country’s land and acted as landlords, renting small plots of land out to the majority of the population (an estimated five million people). The Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and the American Civil War created an economic depression that spread to Ireland. This depression, combined with the collapse of the potato crop and a poultry cholera epidemic, led to a great deal of tenants falling behind or not being able to pay their rent. Despite the grave difficulties renters faced, land owners continued to increase their rent. These crises led to the Irish Land War.

By the fall of 1879, tenants organized to create The Irish National Land League with the ultimate goal of abolishing landlordism. Members acted out through protests, militant riots, and even assassinations. Possibly the most famous tactic used was boycotting: landlords and people who opposed the league were socially ostracized, and people refused to work or sell produce to landlords and their supporters.

Many of the pamphlets I’ve come across were either published by or discuss the Irish National Land League; others were published by or for subgroups of the land league like the Irish National Land League of the United States. The content of the pamphlets include support and endorsements for the movement, reports of the league’s annual conventions, and booklets discussing the Irish Land War from different viewpoints.

There are several ways to find documents associated with the Irish Question and its many subtopics, like the Land War, using PAHRC’s online catalog. Users can perform a keyword search for a particular term of interest. The Click & Search function can sometimes be more helpful, since it allows users to browse the subjects and names assigned to these documents.


Reference: Fin. “An Introduction to The Land War 1879-1882.” Irish History Podcast (blog). May 20, 2011. (Accessed November 14, 2011)


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