Ireland, the Poor, and Machinery

  • Barry Gordon


From the emigration debates of the decade, it is evident that there were three social issues which presented parliamentarians with particularly difficult policy puzzles. Economists in general appeared equally bemused and divided. The issues were: the continuing misery of Ireland; the burden of unemployment relief under the English Poor Law system; and the incidence of technological unemployment. In the Irish case, the uncertainty was due, in part, to ignorance of prevailing conditions; an ignorance sometimes augmented by strong antipathy to the Irish. In the English case, there were the seeming contradictions in the performance of the economy. Of these latter, Professor Checkland writes:

In terms of capital formation, the development of new skills, and the increase of total output, it was a time of great progress. But in terms of improvement of real wages, though many workers were gaining ground, it is highly doubtful whether the mass of men enjoyed any great material advance. Certain groups suffered heavy direct blows, the prelude to their diminution or eclipse. Prices as a whole fell continuously, except for hectic boom intervals, suggesting in a prima facie way that the system was not reaching its full potential output.1


Local Labour Market English System Technological Unemployment Economic Doctrine Irish Disease 


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  1. 1.
    S. G. Checkland, The Rise of Industrial Sociey in England 1815–1885 ( London: Longmans, 1964 ) 16–17.Google Scholar
  2. 38.
    G. W. Oxley, Poor Relief in England and Wales,1601–1834 ( Newton Abbot: David and Charles, 1974 ) 117.Google Scholar
  3. 55.
    Earl of Lauderdale, Three Letters to the Duke of Wellington ( London: Murray, 1829 ) 116–17.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Barry Gordon 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barry Gordon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NewcastleAustralia

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