Pamphleteering in mid-eighteenth-century Ireland

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Features, Issue 5 (Sept/Oct 2012), Volume 20

The pamphlet was the most important vehicle for public debate in mid-eighteenth-century Ireland. Pamphlets published in the period between the mid-1720s and the Lucas affair of 1749 were notable for the prominence given to economic issues. The British connection, which had been central to pamphlet debate in Ireland in the early part of the eighteenth century, received only limited attention. The harvest failures of the late 1720s led to a surge in the publication of pamphlets discussing Ireland’s perilous economic circumstances. These works considered the various causes of the economic problems before outlining what steps could be taken to improve the situation. Most authors argued that Ireland could recover from its economic difficulties by concentrating on bringing practical improvements to sectors such as tillage, linen and fishing. The removal of restrictions imposed by the Westminster parliament on Irish woollen exports, a favourite subject for pamphleteers writing in the early eighteenth century, was no longer seen as a prerequisite for Ireland’s economic prosperity. The majority were published anonymously, although it is known that gentry and clergy were among the most prolific Irish pamphleteers. Perhaps the closest present-day equivalent to the pamphleteer (and also often anonymous) is the internet blogger. Like their eighteenth-century counterparts, 21st-century bloggers have engaged enthusiastically in the task of analysing the causes of the economic and social problems of the day.


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