You are not currently logged in.

Login through your institution for access.


Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

Homicide in pre-Famine and Famine Ireland

Homicide in pre-Famine and Famine Ireland

Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: NED - New edition, 1, 1
Pages: 232
Stable URL:
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Homicide in pre-Famine and Famine Ireland
    Book Description:

    Was pre-Famine and Famine Ireland a violent society? The dominant view among a range of commentators at the time, and in the work of many historians since, is that violence was both prevalent and pervasive in the social and cultural life of the country. This book explores the validity of this perspective through the study of homicide and what it reveals about wider experiences of violence in the country at that time. The book provides a quantitative and contextual analysis of homicide in pre-Famine and Famine Ireland. It explores the relationship between particular and prominent causes of conflict – personal, familial, economic and sectarian – and the use of lethal violence to deal with such conflicts. Throughout the book, the Irish experience is placed within a comparative framework and there is also an exploration of what the history of violence in Ireland might reveal about the wider history of interpersonal violence in Europe and beyond. The aim throughout is to challenge the view of nineteenth-century Ireland as a violent society and to offer a more complex and nuanced assessment of the part played by violence in Irish life.

    eISBN: 978-1-78138-095-6
    Subjects: History
    × Close Overlay

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. List of tables and figures (pp. IX-X)
  4. Preface (pp. XI-XIV)
  5. ‘A violent society’? (pp. 1-11)

    Sir Richard Hussey Vivian, commander of the armed forces in Ireland, addressing a select committee on the state of the country in 1832, remarked on the ‘extraordinary carelessness of human life’ amongst the mass of the people – declaring that, although generally hospitable, they ‘would have no sort of hesitation in taking up a stone and committing a murder’.¹ Before the 1839 select committee on crime in Ireland, Joseph Tabeteau agreed that there was ‘a very great disregard’ for human life ‘manifested in the feelings and practice of the peasantry’ and noted that ‘even after death it is astonishing how soon...

  6. 1 Homicide rates in Ireland, 1801–1850 (pp. 12-31)

    How common was homicide in Ireland in the first half of the nineteenth century?¹ Between 1841 and 1850, the decade for which the most consistent data is available, there were 2,792 reported cases of homicide in Ireland.² This figure comprises all incidents of alleged murder, manslaughter and infanticide reported by the police in the country throughout the decade. Of the total number of incidents reported, 1,230, or forty-four per cent, were alleged cases of infanticide, while the remaining 1,562, or fifty-six per cent, were alleged murders or manslaughters. The rate of homicide (excluding infanticide), therefore, was 1.97 per 100,000 of...

  7. 2 ‘Do you want to pick a fight out of me?’: Homicide and personal relations (pp. 32-58)

    Studies of violence in Ireland in the first half of the nineteenth century have generally focused on conflicts arising from the rural economy and, to a lesser extent, from religious divisions and popular, or more particularly, catholic alienation from the existing political and legal order. Indeed, it has been often assumed that these were the primary causes of violent activity in Ireland at that time.¹ There can be little doubt that such studies have added immeasurably to our understanding of Irish society in the nineteenth century. The problem with this emphasis, however, is that more personal and less directly economic,...

  8. 3 ‘Sending them to heaven’: Homicide and the family (pp. 59-88)

    The role of the family in pre-Famine and Famine Ireland, let alone the role of violence within it, has received little attention within the historiography. There are, however, exceptions. Fitzpatrick, in an article on the role of the family in rural unrest, suggests that ‘intra-family conflict was unusually prevalent in nineteenth-century Ireland, with its extensive kinship networks, its scarcity of resources and its lack of clear criteria for disposing of property.’¹ Fitzpatrick’s main concern, however, is with the wider issue of ‘rural unrest’ and his study of intra-family conflict focuses largely on economic disputes among families over the control of...

  9. 4 ‘The tranquillity of a barrel of gun powder’: Homicide and land (pp. 89-125)

    Disputes over the use, control and occupation of land have been central to explanations of violent conflict in Ireland in the first half of the nineteenth century. The focus of study has very much been on conflicts between and among the various social groups in rural society and the degree to which these were rooted in and accentuated by the demographic pressures and prevailing economic conditions of the period. Cornewall Lewis argues, for instance, that rural unrest in Ireland was primarily rooted in pre-existing tensions in the relationship between landlord and tenant, which were accentuated by the demographic and economic...

  10. 5 ‘The madness of party’: Homicide and sectarianism (pp. 126-157)

    The first half of the nineteenth century, following the Act of Union,² is often seen as a time of increased and increasing sectarian tensions in Ireland.³ This rise in sectarian feeling was both reflected in and extenuated by a variety of different developments. To begin with, there was the legacy of the political upheavals of the 1790s, culminating in the 1798 Rebellion. Despite the avowed anti-sectarianism of many of those involved, the 1790s witnessed an upsurge in sectarian animosity and violence which left Irish society ‘more bitterly polarized than before’. It also contributed, in the longer term, to a ‘legacy...

  11. Conclusion (pp. 158-175)

    Ireland in the first half of the nineteenth century could be a violent place. In certain areas, in particular Co. Tipperary and, at times, in other locations, rates of homicide could be considerably higher than those found in present-day Ireland and Europe. The nature of some violent activity also suggests that violence could, in certain contexts, come to play a prominent part in the socio-economic, cultural and political life of the country. Pre-Famine Ireland can at times appear, from the perspective of the early twenty-first century, to be an extraordinarily violent place with groups meeting in open combat at social...

  12. Appendix one: Methods and sources (pp. 176-192)
  13. Appendix two: Homicide and motive (pp. 193-196)
  14. Bibliography (pp. 197-209)
  15. Index (pp. 210-226)