This paper investigates the way in which the ‘problem of poverty’ in Ireland was encountered, constructed and debated by members of the Irish intellectual and political elite in the decades between the Great Famine and the outbreak of the land war in the late 1870s. This period witnessed acute social upheavals in Ireland, from the catastrophic nadir of the Famine, through the much-vaunted economic recovery of the 1850s–1860s, to the near-famine panic of the late 1870s (itself prefigured by a lesser agricultural crisis in 1859–63). The paper focuses on how a particular elite group – the ‘Dublin School’ of political economists and their circle, and most prominently William Neilson Hancock and John Kells Ingram – sought to define and investigate the changing ‘problem’, shape public attitudes towards the legitimacy of welfare interventions and lobby state officials in the making of poor law policy in this period. It suggests that the crisis of 1859–63 played a disproportionate role in the reevaluation of Irish poor relief and in promoting a campaign for an ‘anglicisation’ of poor law measures and practice in Ireland.
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