The Land League Crisis

In 1877, a long period of economic depression began. In 1879, tenants in Mayo, unable to afford their rents, established the Land League. This mass movement soon spread throughout Ireland and organised rent strikes on estates throughout the country. A land war broke out between 1879 and 1882 and again from the mid-1880s (this time organised by the National League and accompanied by a new tactic called the Plan of Campaign. Eviction levels rose dramatically once again.
The government responded to the Land League crisis by introducing the 1881 Land Act. This land act established the Land Commission which set up courts to fix fair rents. The fixing of fair rents inevitably came to mean the lowering of them. On average rents were lowered by around 21 per cent for the first judicial period. Landlords who had borrowed heavily in the 1850's and 1860's now found themselves in great financial difficulty.
At the same time, the so-called land question became entwined with the national question aimed at the achievement of Home Rule for Ireland. Landlords were seen to be a barrier to settling both the land question and the national question: they owned the land and they controlled local and national government. As Nationalists (who were predominantly Catholic) became more powerful, they politically sidelined landlords (who favoured the maintenance of the union between Ireland and Britain and were so termed Unionists.) After the 1880's, landlords virtually lost all political power at both local and national level.

The economic depression lasted right up to 1914. In the meantime, the government passed more land acts in 1885 and 1891 aimed at encouraging the transfer of land ownership from landlords to tenants. They were largely unsuccessful. Landlords were unwilling to sell because they could not get what they considered a fair asking price. Tenants were unwilling to buy, possibly because they could not afford to do so or more likely because their rents were being lowered by the courts, so they saw little advantage in doing so.

previousPrevious - Historic Events
Next - The Great War and Irish Revolutionnext

Upload to this page

Upload to this page

Add your photos, text, videos, etc. to this page.

Map Search


History & Heritage

Popular Sections