Hussey De Burgh: The Landowners Of Ireland

Pdf Hussey De Burgh, U.H., The Landowners Of Ireland, Dublin: Hodges, Foster and Figgis, 1878
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The Landowners of Ireland by U.H. Hussey De Burgh, is a comprehensive survey of landowners across the island of Ireland in the late 19th century. It includes alphabetical individual names, titles, addresses, education, some autobiographical details, land acreage and valuation of property. The first section lists the exclusive London clubs in which this privileged, largely Anglo-Irish Protestant, elite were members and socialised.

Listed first are the names of the largest landowners in the country who had extensive estates valued at £10,000 and upwards and reads as a 'who's who' of the most important Protestant Ascendancy families in Ireland and Britain . These fabulously wealthy gentry, many of whom served in the British House of Lords or as MPs in the British House of Commons, were absentee landlords who delegated the running of their vast holdings to middle men and agents.

The second list are the names of a lower rank of landowner with £3,000 pounds and upwards, county by country. Among this very wealthy class were some MPs, lower ranking gentry, knights of the realm, military officers, doctors, civil servants, business people and many more. The final list is a general list of all Irish landowners of all land valued about $500 and upwards.

The reader can quickly recognise that few of the family names were Gaelic Irish or 'Old English' in origin. This is evidence of the legacy of the Cromwellian and Williamite wars of the 17th century which saw Catholics losing their confiscated lands to English, Scottish and Welsh Protestant families. The overwhelming majority of Catholics were tenant farmers or landless peasants on the estates of these Anglo-Irish Protestant families. Most of these Catholic tenants especially in remote western regions were desperately poor and survived on a basic diet of potatoes.

In the decades following the Great Potato Famine of the 1840s which witnessed approximately a million Irish perish and a million more emigrate, the population of Ireland went into a steep decline from a high of over 8 million. By the 1870s, Irish tenant farmers and peasants were still struggling to survive while paying high rents, threatened with eviction and facing renewed famine.

It was in this environment that the radical Fenians, the Land League and the Irish Parliamentary Party led by Charles Stuart Parnell, himself a Protestant landowner, agitated for land reform in the 1880s. A series of land acts passed by subsequent Liberal and Conservative British governments secured the rights of Irish Catholic tenants. The campaign was largely peaceful though there were instances of civil disorder and violence.

By the turn of the 20th century the majority of Irish estates had been broken up and Catholics farmers owned their land. The social, economic and political power of the Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy class had been broken. The era saw the rise of a new increasingly confident, separatist Irish Catholic landowning middle class.

The 1916-1923 Irish revolutionary period, saw open armed rebellion against British rule. Many Anglo-Irish Protestants openly supported British forces during the conflict. Following the establishment of the Irish Free State , many of the palatial homes of Ascendancy families were burned down by vengeful militant Irish republicans.

Thousands of Anglo-Irish Protestants left southern Ireland for North Ireland, Britain , Canada , Australia and the United States as a muscular Catholicism came to dominate the  Free State and later the fully independent Republic of Ireland . Bitter sectarian resentments lingered in Ireland for decades and sowed the seeds of renewed conflict in Northern Ireland dominated by a Protestant Unionist majority at the end of the 1960s.

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