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Letters of the Catholic Poor
Poverty in Independent Ireland, 1920–1940

$32.99 (C)

  • Date Published: July 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316631805

$ 32.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • This innovative study of poverty in Independent Ireland between 1920 and 1940 is the first to place the poor at its core by exploring their own words and letters. Written to the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, their correspondence represents one of the few traces in history of Irish experiences of poverty, and collectively they illuminate the lives of so many during the foundation decades of the Irish state. This book keeps the human element central, so often lost when the framework of history is policy, institutions and legislation. It explores how ideas of charity, faith, gender, character and social status were deployed in these poverty narratives and examines the impact of poverty on the lives of these writers and the survival strategies they employed. Finally, it considers the role of priests in vetting and vouching for the poor and, in so doing, perpetuating the discriminating culture of charity.

    • A unique first history of Irish poverty post-independence, provoking debate on the legacy and impact of the 1916 Rising in this centenary year
    • A people-centred study focusing on the power of the written word, appealing to disciplines beyond history, including literary scholars, sociologists and the wider public
    • Questions the implicit hierarchy of traditional types of historical source material and methodology, promoting discussion about the way history is studied
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '[T]his is an original and thoughtful work, rich in insights and suffused with clear feeling for the lives it has examined. As such it makes a significant contribution to the history of poverty as to the history of popular writing and ordinary experience, in twentieth-century Ireland and Europe.' Niamh Cullen, Journal of Contemporary History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316631805
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.403kg
    • contains: 8 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The social setting: 'is this a civilized country?'
    2. Artefacts of poverty: 'I crave your holy pardon for writing'
    3. The 'poor' make their case: 'surely they are worth helping'
    4. Hidden poverty: 'I bear my poverty in silence'
    5. The cost of poverty: 'to live or rather exist'
    6. Vetting and vouching: 'it would be a charity to help him'
    Conclusion: 'peopling the past'

  • Author

    Lindsey Earner-Byrne, University College Dublin
    Lindsey Earner-Byrne is a lecturer in modern Irish history in the School of History at University College Dublin and a member of the Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland. She has researched and published on gender, health and welfare in modern Ireland with a focus on mothers, widows and children.

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