Begging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland

BookOpen AccessBegging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland

Begging, Charity and Religion in Pre-Famine Ireland

Reappraisals in Irish History, 13


January 24th, 2019


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An Open Access edition of this book is available on the Liverpool University Press website and the OAPEN library.
Beggars and begging were ubiquitous features of pre-Famine Irish society, yet have gone largely unexamined by historians. This book explores at length for the first time the complex cultures of mendicancy, as well as how wider societal perceptions of and responses to begging were framed by social class, gender and religion. The study breaks new ground in exploring the challenges inherent in defining and measuring begging and alms-giving in pre-Famine Ireland, as well as the disparate ways in which mendicants were perceived by contemporaries. A discussion of the evolving role of parish vestries in the life of pre-Famine communities facilitates an examination of corporate responses to beggary, while a comprehensive analysis of the mendicity society movement, which flourished throughout Ireland in the three decades following 1815, highlights the significance of charitable societies and associational culture in responding to the perceived threat of mendicancy. The instance of the mendicity societies illustrates the extent to which Irish commentators and social reformers were influenced by prevailing theories and practices in the transatlantic world regarding the management of the poor and deviant. Drawing on a wide range of sources previously unused for the study of poverty and welfare, this book makes an important contribution to modern Irish social and ecclesiastical history.

'McCabe initiates a much needed shift in focuses from the urgent response to a humanitarian crisis in the wake of the potato blight to a comprehensive analysis to how Irish society tackled the challenges and instituted a framework to meet the needs of the most vulnerable on a daily basis. In this way, McCabe’s book is essential reading when considering the ways an analysis of class, gender and religion in Pre-Famine Ireland illuminates how a growing sense of social awareness not only surfaced in this period but shaped the way Irish society would define and advance itself into the modern era.'
Victoria Anne Pearson, Women's History Association Ireland

'This is an insightful and enlightening study, lucidly written and grounded in meticulous research in a wide range of sources, many of which have been given only cursory treatment by historians to date.'
Maura Cronin, Irish Economic and Social History

'This is an important and welcome addition to the literature on poor relief practices in nineteenth-century Europe. Ciarán McCabe has written a scholarly and thought-provoking, yet accessible book.'
Julie Marfany, Cultural and Social History

'By using philanthropy as a lens, this study allows us to learn much about the social dynamics of pre-Famine Ireland, and it will no doubt prove valuable and thought provoking for all those interested in these complex interactions.'
Joe Curran, Australasian Journal of Irish Studies

'The reader is presented with multiple vernacular perspectives of poverty of both men and women that ensures a richly variegated account of poverty in pre-Famine Ireland.'
Brian Casey, Irish Historical Studies

Author Information

Ciarán McCabe is an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellow at the School of History, University College Dublin. His current research project examines the survival strategies of working-class women in Dublin between 1850–1950, and this project is associated with the Dublin Tenement Museum (14 Henrietta Street).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Figures8
List of Tables9
Note on Editorial Conventions15
I. Begging and Alm-Giving: Framing the Issues35
1. Defining Begging and Alms-Giving37
2. Measuring Begging and Alms-Giving80
3. Begging and Alms-Giving: Perceptions and Motivations111
II. Responses I: Cross-Denominational Approaches141
4. Civil Parishes’ Responses to Street Begging143
5. The Mendicity Society Movement and the Suppression of Street Begging162
III. Responses II: Denominational Approaches201
6. Roman Catholic Approaches to Begging and Alms-Giving203
7. Protestant Approaches to Begging and Alms-Giving234