Victorian Ireland

After the famine the rapid decline in Irish-speaking accelerated, through the disproportionate deaths and emigration in the Irish-speaking areas. It may be that the impulse to emigrate, together with the expansion of the new national schools, combined to make Irish-speaking parents wish for their children to cast off the language of poverty and failure and embrace English for the New World. English had been the language of the state and of the laws for centuries; now the rural poor embraced English as the prosperous had already done.

The cottier class were effectively wiped out by the famine and the remaining population stopped sub-dividing their rented acres between their children, and left the land to one son- not necessarily the eldest. People married later and a very considerable proportion never married at all. Emigration continued, not at famine rates, and others left the country to join the British army at all levels. Those who had lost their land by entering the workhouses or emigration were obliterated from the landscape and land- its acquisition and retention- acquired an extraordinary significance for the remaining population. Tenant rights movements, disproportionately clerically influenced, dominated politics in the 1850’s. The state continued its modernising mission, carefully assisted by the catholic church. Prosperity increased for the remaining population in these years.

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