Historic Events


Landlords were rocked by a series of crises from the early nineteenth century that ultimately ended their economic, social and political dominance of Irish society. Irish rural society was often subjected to outbreaks of agrarian unrest. In the early nineteenth century, for example, ribbonism in various parts of the country resulted from the grievances which peasants felt they had.

It should be noted, however, that their anger was directed as much against large farmers as it was against landlords.

The Great Famine

During the Great Famine, a great many landlords were unable to collect their rents from an impoverished tenantry. Eviction levels rose dramatically, and many thousands of tenant families were forced to leave their homes. Many landlords went bankrupt. The governments passed the Encumbered Estates Act in 1849 to allow bankrupt landlords to sell their estates more easily. Over the next twenty-five years or so, about 25 per cent of Irish land was sold. The buyers were either speculators or landlords who had managed to come through the Famine relatively unscathed.

Growing Debts

After the Famine, the Irish economy recovered quickly. By the mid-1850s most tenants seem to have been able to pay their rents again. Landlords began to prosper once more. They once again began to spend huge sums of money on the development and embellishment of their houses. During the 1850's and 1860's many big houses were architecturally remodelled. In order to raise the money to do this, landlords borrowed heavily from financial institutions and sometimes from each other. As a result of this borrowing and a variety of other estate expenses, their levels of debt grew to dangerous levels.

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