University of Cambridge > > Core Seminar in Economic and Social History > Tamlaght 1840: Work, gender and production in a proto-industrial community

Tamlaght 1840: Work, gender and production in a proto-industrial community

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This paper examines a simple question: what did people actually do in the pre-industrial economy? Many of the indicators used in assessing economic development, and understanding the economic choices available to households and individuals, rely on information about working days, types of labour, and earning opportunities. This information is often scarce, or must be inferred from outside commentators, or simply assumed. The paper uses a (possibly) unique survey taking in the northern Irish parish of Tamlaght in 1840, which gives an almost complete record of the economic resources available to hundreds of households, and highly unusually, detailed information on work by season. This allows a detailed breakdown of the labour input from men and women into specific tasks, and an understanding of productivity and returns. In turn, the information provides insight into the state of Irish rural society on the eve of the Great Famine, arguing that the circumstances of many surviving from small potato plots was a rational response to the pressures on the proto-industrial economy caused by mechanization.

This talk is part of the Core Seminar in Economic and Social History series.

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