Irish attitudes towards luxury, and in particular foreign goods, influenced political development during the eighteenth century. In the Anglo-American context T.H. Breen sees the goods of empire as acting as a cultural bonding agent.1 But obviously goods could also be the focal point and the expression of tensions between rival polities. In Ireland the view of consumer goods as a cultural bonding agent must be balanced alongside an increasing sense of patriotism, which encouraged a number of ‘buy-Irish’ campaigns during the course of the century. Although the majority of imported goods would not necessarily have been classed as luxury items, it was this combination – the association of luxury with foreign, that really exercised eighteenth-century commentators. The opposition in Britain to luxury was not straightforward, as certainly by the second half of the century many of the commentators who inveighed so vigorously against these trends in the first fifty years, would have found such goods common place in the second half. A change occurred as to what precisely luxury meant and what was acceptable. Sugar might have been a luxury item in the first half of the century, but it had shifted in popular perception in the second half, though its association with the plantations ensured that it was always an emotive product.


Irish Woman Luxury Good Foreign Good East India Company British Empire 
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© Martyn J. Powell 2005

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