Annual EBHS Conference, 39th Annual Economic and Business History Society Conference

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Violent Trends? Homicide in Ireland, 1831-1911
Eoin McLaughlin, Richard McMahon

Last modified: 2014-05-19


Pre-Famine and Famine Ireland is often seen as ‘a rough and sometimes brutal society’, a time when both church and state struggled to contain and manage the forces that threatened the prevailing order. Ireland, after the Famine, in contrast, is regarded as an altogether more ordered and orderly society in which individual and social discipline became increasingly central to life on the island. Indeed, images are often conjured of different societies sharing a country but divided in time by a catastrophe. This contrast has led some to conclude that Irish social and cultural life was radically different after the Famine. In the words of one historian, Ireland was ‘thoroughly transformed’ in the decades after 1850, for another, Ireland was ‘altered beyond recognition’ and, elsewhere it was argued that, the Famine was probably the ‘great cultural break in modern Irish history’.

This paper addresses these questions from a quantitative perspective using a panel study of violence in pre and post famine Ireland. The paper uses a new dataset of homicide rates compiled from court and newspaper sources. It uses this data to assess whether the famine was a watershed in homicide rates or whether other socio-economic factors such as age structure, migration, poverty, spiritual and secular control affected trends in violence.