Landlords and Tenants in Mid-Victorian Ireland

By W. E. Vaughan | Go to book overview
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Alternative Methods of Increasing Rents, 1850-1886

The table in this appendix is based on the assumption that landlords or a special commission established by parliament attempted to adjust rents annually according to dearly defined principles, using market prices and the figures produced annually in the agricultural statistics. Ile figures below refer to the whole country, which is treated as one large farm; in practice, of course, any system of adjusting rents would have had to be based on small areas such as poor law unions, baronies, or even parishes.

The TCD rents are the average of the methods in Appendix 12 above. 'Me Sprofit' rents are more speculative and assume that landlords and tenants divided the balance of agricultural output (what was left after the cost of labour and the cost of potato deficiencies had been deducted), with 55 per cent going to the tenants and 45 per cent to the landlords. Rents based on output assume that £8.8 million (the tenement valuation of land (£9.1 million), reduced by 3 per cent), was a fair starting point in 1950 and that rents then fluctuated annually with the value of agricultural output.

The main problem with linking rents to agricultural output, however, is to find a base in the early 1850s for comparisons with subsequent years. The three years, 1850-2, were low; then in 1853 there was an enormous increase, followed by two very prosperous years coinciding with the Crimean war; then there was a relatively stable period, but with prices much higher than those in the early 1950s. Where were the 'normal' years? Several solutions are possible.1 One thing is clear: the war years 1854-5 are not a good basis for comparison; nor is 1853, because that was in practice a year of war, because prices began to rise in the autumn and winter as the Russians advanced into the Danubian principalities.'

See Vaughan, 'Agricultural Output, Rents and Wages in Ireland, 1950-1880', in L. M. Cullen and F. Furet (eds.), Ireland and France, 17th-20th centuries: Towards a Comparative Study of Rural History (Paris, 1980), 97, where average prices for 1852-4 and 1872-4 were used; see also below, p. 265, where a low estimate of rent was used as a starting-point for the early 1850s.
Cf. Cormac Ó Gráda, 'Agricultural Head Rents, Pre-Famine and Post-Famine', Economic and Social Retliew, 5: 3 (Apr. 1974), 390, where it is argued that the landlords' 'share of total agricultural value added was greater in the early 18706 than in the early 1850s'; the basis of this calculation was that agricultural output of £51.1 million in 1852-4 paid a rent of £8.5 million.The rent may have been appropriate in 1950 and 1851, although it seems low, but it was hardly appropriate to put it alongside high output figures based on war prices. Any calculations of agricultural output that are highly influenced by the years of the Crimean war will make even prosperous years in the 1960s and 1870s look dull; historians' work would have been easier if Britain had gone to war with Russia in 1877. See also 6 Grida, 'Irish Agricultural Output before and after the Famine', Journal of European Economic History, 13: 1 (Spring 1984), 149-65, where 1954 is used for comparisons of agriculture before and after the famine.


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