This ground-breaking study focuses on one of Ireland's wealthiest regions in the early modern period, south Munster, and traces its fortunes over two hundred years. The region's strengths were its agricultural resources and its prime Atlantic location, and the rise of the city of Cork from insignificance to international importance was both critical in the exploitation of this wealth and symbolic of a new commercial order. Cork's wholesale hinterland embraced much of Kerry, Waterford and County Cork itself, and the study examines the whole of the region.
Old World Colony traces how rural society and farming evolved, and surveys the world of landowners and of the marginalized, of wealthy merchants and the teeming masses in the mushrooming city of Cork. It seeks to integrate what is usually set apart - social, economic and political history - in a fresh and unfamiliar panorama of material and public life across the heartlands of 'the hidden Ireland' from the era of civil war and expropriation in the seventeenth century to the era of Catholic emancipation in the 1820s.
Colonisation and commerce transformed the region, but growth came at a price. Many of the problems of pre-Famine Ireland – gross income inequality and land scarcity – were precociously evident in South Munster. This study therefore sets the more familiar landmarks of the nineteenth century – agrarian conflict, structural poverty, and the collapse of food supply – in a new and more complex landscape.
The primary purpose of the book is to reconstruct the framework of a pre-modern regional society in a way never before attempted for Ireland, and to demonstrate how that society worked. Many of its findings have national implications, and the book will also be of comparative interest to students of pre-industrial European and colonial American history.
David Dickson is Associate Professor of Modern History in Trinity College Dublin. He is author of Arctic Ireland (1997) and New foundations: Ireland 1660-1800 (2nd ed., 2000), and has recently co-edited Refiguring Ireland: Essays in Honour of L.M. Cullen (2003) and 1798: A Bicentenary Perspective (2003).