Captain Boycott

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  • Michael Davitt

Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott

In the autumn of 1880, Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott, a land agent for Lord Eme on his Co. Mayo estate, was called upon by the Land League to reduce rents after a bad harvest. He refused to do so.

Due to Captain Boycott's hard-heartedness towards the tenants who were facing great hardship, the Land League organised a 'moral coventry' against boycott and the tenants refused to have any dealings with him. This meant he had no one to bring in the harvest on the estate that he managed.

Boycott had to hire men Orangemen from Ulster to bring in the harvest, and he had 1,000 soldiers for protection. A large amount of publicity resulted from the event, and Boycott was forced to return to England with his family.

From then on, the word 'boycott' has been widely used to describe the shunning of people, organisations or countries that do not respect human rights. The tactic of boycotting was used widely in Ireland during the Land War. Therefore, not only did the people of Mayo successfully organise against Captain Boycott, but they also added a new word to the English language.