Section 5 - History


Conflict and Trouble - in Ireland and at Home

  • Period of conflict and failure to achieve any acceptable solution to the governing of Ireland
  • Ireland was under economic as well as political pressure
  • Movement of Home Rule gathered momentum during the 1870s 
  • Ireland was badly affected by the depression in agriculture as it was the country's main industry
  • Cheap American corn coming on the market drove down prices and profits
  • Tenant farmers could not longer pay rent and faced eviction
  • Violence erupted 
  • Encouraged by the activities of the Land League which campaigned for reform 
  • Gladstone sought to repres disorder as well as remove agrarian discontent in Ireland with a policy of coercion 
  • Faced up to the challenges presented by the emergence of a strong Irish Nationalist Party 
  • Introduction of a Home Rule Bill split to Liberals ad brought Unionism into politics
  • Gladstone's commitment to finding a solution was unquestioned
  • Disraeli lacked interest in Ireland
  • Salisbury tried to deal with Ireland with firmness 
  • All three had to steer Britain through a so-called Great Depression
  • Th economic downturn was dramatic and caused real hardship in rural communities
  • Almost made farmers adapt and diversify 
  • Eventually brought about a recovery 
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Causes for Unrest in Ireland

  • Effects of the agricultural depression were being felt by the late 1870s 
  • Up until then - profits were increasing and the Irish tenant farmers were enjoing a period of prosperity and a rise in the standard of living
  • Between 1877 and 1879 = unusually wet summers, disastrous harvests and the arrival of the market of cheap American corn changed all that
  • Combination of low crop yield and a fall in the price of British wheat 
  • Led to a fall in profits for farmers
  • Irish = particularly hard hit
  • The majority of them were tenant famers who could no longer meet the rent demand
  • This led to their eviction
  • Many landowners reacted by organising their land into larger units to make them more viable
  • Eviction of smaller tenants
  • Land Act did not offer protection and this led to a land war 
  • Demands = reduction in rent and redistribution of land 
  • Movement began in the west but soon spread across the country 
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The Land League

  • Founded in October 1879 by Michael Davitt
  • Connections with the Irish American revolution secret society and the IRB
  • Funded by money from America and quickly opened branches throughout Ireland
  • Hard-pressed tenant farmers flocked to join
  • Aim was to reform the land tenure system and gain security for tenant farmers and smallholders
  • Based upon three f's = fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale 
  • Davitt invited Parnell to preside over the League 
  • Parnell became leader of the Home Rule Party in Parliament 
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The Question of Home Rule

There were several factors that brought the question of Irish Home Rule on to the political agenda and made it increasingly difficult for the Westminster government to ignore:

The Influence of Isaac ****:

  • Stemmed from the initiatives of Isaac **** when he set up the Home Government Association
  • 1874 = **** replaced the HGA with the Home Rule League 
  • Wide-based support aong the Irish 
  • Formed the nucleus of a strong Irish Nationalist/Home Rule Party 
  • Actions directed politis for the next decade 
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The Question of Home Rule

The Consequences for Ireland of the Ballot Act of 1872:

  • Success came from the ability of the Irish voter to express himself freely 
  • No fear of reprisal or eviction from his generally Protestant pro-Union landlord

Gladstone's Failure to satisfy Ireland during his First Ministry:

  • Gladstone made himself unpopular among many of his supporters with Irish legislation 
  • View that Britain and Ireland had been dealt with rather generously 
  • Gladstone's legislation had been bold and innovative in that it challenge Protestant Ascendancy
  • It did not satisfy the Irish people
  • Increasing number of tenant farmers with the feeling that independence from Britain was the only satisfactory solution 
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The Question of Home Rule

The Great Depression: 

  • Increase in economic and social distress from the effects of the depression
  • Increase in the number of evictions 
  • Resentment among the tenant farers against British dominance and system of tenure
  • Opportunities for Irish immigrant workers had dried up
  • Increased anti-British feeling 
  • Desire for separation 
  • Many joined the Land League 

Impact of Pressure Groups:

  • Agitation of the Irish tenants against eviction and refusal to pay rents 
  • Brought pressure on Gladstone's new government in 1880 to introduce land reform 
  • Strengthened by the Land League's loose alliance with the Home Rule League 
  • Parnell agitated in the House of redress for evicted tenants 
  • Pressure contributed to Gladstone's major reform of the Land Act in 1881 
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The Question of Home Rule

The Parnell Factor:

  • Parnell emerged on the Irish political scene shortly after ****'s death
  • Home Rule movement needed a leader with his strength of purpose and dynamism 
  • Decision to cooperate with the Land League gave momentum to the Home Rule movement 
  • Skilful management of the Irish MPs led to a strong Irish Nationalist Party 
  • Held the balance of power in parliament
  • Major factor in persuading Gladstone to support Home Rule 
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Gladstone's Conversion to Home Rule

  • June 1885 = Parnell and the Irish Nationalists voted Conservative over a budget amendment
  • Gladstone's government was defeated 
  • Gladstone resigned
  • Robert Cecil formed a minority Conservative government which could only survive with the support of the Irish Nationalists
  • Salisbury = quick to introduce two concessions to the Irish and then call an election in November 1885
  • Policy of coercion was ended and the Land Purchase Act introduced, which set aside £5m to assist tenants to buy their holdigs from the landlord
  • Parnell called on the Irish immigrant population to vote for Conservatives in the general election, as he believe Salisbury might support Home Rule 
  • Ireland = not one Liberal won a seat - there were 16 Ulster Conservatives, who formed the nucleus of the future Irish unionists 
  • Every Irish Nationalist supported Parnell and Ireland had, in effect, voted Home Rule 
  • Election = Liberals had a majority of 86 over the Conservatives, the Irish Nationalists returned with 86 eats and again held a powerful position between the two main parties 
  • Salisbury continued at prime minister of the minority government until 1886
  • Conservatives were defeated and Salisbury resigned
  • Gladstone formed a new Liberal Government 
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Gladstone's Conversion to Home Rule

  • December 1885 = Gladstone had dropped the 'Hawarden Kite' 
  • Leaed to the press that he had altered his position on Ireland and supported Home Rule
  • One of the most momentous political decisions of the 19th century 
  • Gladstone believe the government should remain consistent in its Irish policy and the sudden ending of coercion by Salisbury had led to new outbreaks of violence
  • Possible that he feared the Conservative might introduce Home Rule 
  • By 1886 = Gladstone was back in office and PM for the third time
  • Almost immediately introduce the Home Rule Bill
  • Lord Hartington declared his opposition to Home Rule
  • Gladstone drove forward without securing the support of Chamberlain 
  • First Home Rule Bill proposed that:
    • Ireland should have its own parliament to take charge of internal affairs
    • Froeign affairs, defence and external trade would be left at Westminster
    • No representation of the Irish MPs in Parliament
  • Bill was met with opposition on all sides 
  • Chamberlain resigned and the Bill was defeated 343 votes to 313
  • Personal blow for Gladstone and split the Liberals 
  • Defecting Liberals led by Chamberlain called themselves Liberal Unionists 
  • They voted Conservative in the future 
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Gladstone's Conversion to Home Rule

  • Put the Conservatives in power for 20 years
  • Created the conditions for an increasingly bitter divide between those who wanted independence from Britain and those who wanted to stay in the union 
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Growing Divide between Unionism and Nationalism

  • Unionists = mainly Protestant and centred in the Province of Ulster in the North
  • Unionist pockets in the South among the old Anglo-Irish aristocratic families 
  • Allied themselves to the Northern Unionists
  • Geographical isolation denied them any political clout 
  • Ulster had enjoyed more prosperity than the south of Ireland 
  • Close trading links with the Empire gave them a British rather than Irish identity
  • Feared that HR would overwhelm Ulster's special relationship with Britain and dilute prosperity 
  • The Unionists hardened their hearts against any compromise over HR 
  • Led to a polarisation between Unionists and Nationalists 
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Disraeli and the Irish Question

  • Disraeli was never really interested in Ireland
  • Never visited Ireland
  • Avoided the question as much as he could
  • Involved in dealing with Fenian outrages for a short time in 1868
  • Strongly oppose Gladstone's disestablishment of the Irish Church 
  • Concerns for the Empire rather than Ireland
  • 1874 = did not give Irish Secretary a place in the Cabinet
  • 1880 = strongly opposed the Irish Compensation for Disturbance Bill which penalised Irish landlords who evicted
  • Gladstone was trying to 'victimise the landlord classes'
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Gladstone and the Irish Question

  • First term in office = major legislative programme for Ireland
  • Involved Church,, land and education
  • Sincerely wished to remove Irish grievances 
  • Believed that all people had the rights to basic freedom and justice
  • Believed his legislation would rectify religious and economic disadvantage and reduce Protestant Ascendancy, which was the cause of so much bitterness
  • Ballot Act gave Irish Nationalists a voice in Parliament for the first time
  • Allowed them to become a major political force
  • First term = did not see the need for Home Rule
  • Second Ministry = forced to be proactive over Ireland 
  • Nationalism and the Land League were firmly on the politica agenda
  • Irish demands were changing and becoming more extreme 
  • 1885 = obliged to reassess his strategy on Ireland when Parnell withdrew support
  • Home Rule was accepted as a genuine conversion and a response to growing pressure
  • He never wavered once committed, even thought it split the party 
  • Home Rule became his sole ambition and his obsession in what remained of his life 
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Salisbury and the Irish Question

  • Maintained a ruthless attitude to the whole Irish question
  • Irish = 'the ignorant peasantry of Ireland'
  • Believed that the Land League was made up of trouble makers
  • 1885 = appeared to consider some form of Home Rule for Ireland
  • He was only playing along in order to gain Parnell's support in the coming general election in hope of achieving a majority 
  • More concerened with British Empire and the impact HR might have 
  • Once he became PM, he had no intention of introducing HR 
  • Appointed a tough and able Chief Secretary for Ireland 
  • Pursued three main policies in Ireland:
    • Firmness
    • Attacking Parnell's Reputation
    • 'Killing Home Rule with Kindness'
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The Great Depression and Its Impact

  • Period between 1873 and 1896
  • Agriculture went through the econmic doldrums
  • Economic state is seen by historians as going through a period of 'readjustment' 
  • Confidence was rocked by falling prices, narrowing profit margins and foreign competition 
  • They feared national decline
  • Onset of the depression followed a period of outstanding economic growth and prosperity
  • Economy was still growing, but at a slower rate
  • Rate of production in major industires was increasing, but slowly
  • Fall in prices but periods of unemployment were not sustained
  • Depression of agriculture continued 
  • Recovery in industry by 1880 and another slump in the mid 1880s, and another in mid 1890
  • Price of wheat in 1874 = 55
  • Price of wheat in 1880 = 44
  • Price of wheat in 1886 = 31
  • There was an economic downturn and there are a number of causes
  • Fall in prices marks the start of the depression but the reason is unclear
  • Some historians have favoured a single cause explanation such as a shortage of gold 
  • Another reason = end of long period of economic growth that couldn't be sustained 
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Causes of the Great Depression

Overseas Competition:

  • Britain = dependent on its export trade to maintain its position of economic supremacy
  • Enjoyed a monopoly of the production and export of coal, iron and steel
  • Britain was experiencing serious challenge to its position for the first time
  • Result of rapid industrialisation of America and Germany 
  • America was rich in natural resources and in manpower from immigration
  • Raced ahead of economic development 
  • 1890 = America had ovetaken Britain in the production of both coal and steel
  • Germany was not far behind
  • Britain did stay ahead in the production of coal, but only until 1900 
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Causes of the Great Depression

Tarriff Barriers:

  • Set up by Britain's new competitors to protect their industries
  • Presented another problem for Britain's economy
  • Germany introduced trade tarriffs in 1879 
  • America followed in 1890
  • Britain clung onto its long-held belief in the policy of laissez-faire
  • The Fair Trade League established in 1881 
  • Pressed the government for some form of protection against British competitiors 
  • No success
  • Suggested that one of Britain's underlying motives in securing colonial territories was trade protection - colonial expansion in Africa would give Britain access to a new supply of raw materials and markets for British goods 
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Causes of the Great Depression

Out-dated Technology:

  • Britain had fallen behind the latest technology and its machinery was either old or obslete
  • Reluactance to invest new capital
  • Especially in the steel industry where up-to-date British methods were adopted by the Germans 
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Causes of the Great Depression

Absence of Entrepreneurial Drive:

  • Third Generation Syndrome
  • Entrepreneurial spirit of earlier industrialists was lost as the management of family firms was handed down to less-capable or less-interested successors
  • Little engagement with future development of new industries such as chemicals
  • Lack of practical knowledge of what changes might be needed to maintain success
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Causes of the Great Depression

End of the Railway boom:

  • Boom in railway building had ended by 1875
  • Most major towns and cities now had good rail links
  • Reduced the demand for iron and steel and led to job losses
  • Average levels of unemployment rose from 1873 until they hit 11% in 1879
  • Fell away again to 2% duing 1882-1883
  • Reached 10% in 1886
  • Periods of unemployment were experienced by hard working artisan classes 
  • Support of trade unions and friendly societies was not enough 
  • No State welfare scheme tosave them from the worst effects of lost income 
  • Majority of unemployed unskilled labour had no nions until late 1880s
  • Forced to rely on the support of family an friends 
  • Some resorted to the workhouse
  • Falling prices meant cheaper goods in the shops and a rise in wages as long as they were in a job 
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Problems of Agriculture

  • Golden Age of farming came to a sudden end in the 1870s
  • British farmers were producing about 50% of the home consumption of wheat and 90% of meat
  • Dairy farmers supplied home markets with butter, milk and chesse
  • Farmers had made huge profits and build themselves a comfortable lifestyle
  • Not all areas of Britain had benefited from this prosperity
  • Remote Scotland = farming was under-resourced and ploughing and harvesting was still carried out by hand with the old Scots foot plough and the scythe 
  • Most of the country = accessibility of good, cheap home-produced food which helped to improve general health and raise the standard of living in Britain 
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Problems of Agriculture

Weather conditions:

  • 1870s = run of cool, wet summers with consequently low yielding harvests
  • Summer of 1879 = wettest of record
  • Crops rotted in the ground, there was a shortage of animal feed and there were outbreaks of disease among livestock such as 'foot and mouth' 
  • Difficult for farmers to get back on track without such unwelcome disasters
  • Agricultural immunity was already low and recovery was made more difficult with competition 
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Problems of Agriculture

Foreign Competition:

  • 1870s = mid-west prairies of North America opened up with the cultivation of the rich soil for the first time and the production of great quantities of wheat
  • Railways were now assisting US farmers to transprt their wheat thousands of miles to the ports on the eastern seaboard
  • Brtish money and expertise had been used to develop American railways 
  • The rapid development of steamships meant that the grain could be transported cheaply in huge quantities to Britain and Europe, and undercut their markets 
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Problems of Agriculture

Advances in Technology:

  • Advances in farming machinery, particularly the combine harvester in America, revolutionised the process of harvesting
  • Carried out the reaping and the thrshing of the crops simultaneously
  • Ideal in the vast American wheat lands
  • Development of the canning process in the 1880s meant that beef could be put into tins to preserve it and export it to Britain 
  • Methods of refrigeration developed at the time 
  • Previously perishable goods could be transported to Australia and New Zealand 
  • Compete with British goods in terms of price, if not quality 
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Problems of Agriculture

  • Decision to continue Gladstone's free trade policy meant that there was no tariff protection fom foreign competition - indication of the weakening influence of the landed interests 
  • Results meant fierce competition for the British farmer and prices fell heavily
  • Price of wheat fell from 55 shillings in 1874 to 31 shilling in 1885
  • Hardest hit areas = wheat and cereal counties of the south and east
  • Farmers went bankrupt and many deserted the countryside and settled in towns
  • Difficult to find regular work
  • Many sought a better life by emigrating to America and Canada 
  • Agricultural workers fell from 1 million to 600,000 in 1901
  • Pattern of British agriculture changed as a result of the depression
  • No part of the country was unaffected
  • British farmers had to diversify in order to survive
  • Some were slow to spot the need for change
  • Many moved into dairy farming as milk could not be easily imported
  • Poultry farming became popular
  • Development of market gardening as an alternative to farming met great success
  • Area turned over to pasture increased
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Problems of Agriculture

  • One cause for violent unrest in Ireland
  • Irish farmers were equally hard hit by the rising wheat prices
  • Left many of them unable to keep up their rent payments and forced out by landlord
  • Seasonal work came to an end
  • Movement of so many people to the towns created a kind of nostalgia for the life left behnd in the countryside and an idea that rural life was idyllic
  • Reality = very different
  • Conditions were tough and housing conditions were generally poor
  • Families lived in small two-roomed cottages with no running water or sanitation
  • Mine workers lived in rows of single-storey houses which lacked sanitation and overcrowded
  • Agricultural labourers = lowest paid workers 
  • Worked longer and more irregular hours
  • Few dared to be members of a union for fear o flosing their livelihood 
  • Had no vote until 1884 and therefore no political voice
  • Few public amenities in villages
  • Social backwardness as they remained cut off from many modern developments
  • Education = chaotic 
  • There still existed close family bonds, a strong sense of community and respect 
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