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Irish Maritime Trade in the Eighteenth Century: a Study in Patterns of Trade, Market Structures, and Merchant Communities

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posted on 2023-03-14, 00:13 authored by Cheer, Karen A

Ireland has a centuries-long history of maritime and economic interaction with Great Britain and other more distant communities on the Atlantic rim. In the last forty years of academic writing on the main themes of Ireland's economic history, very few historians have examined the  late-eighteenth century maritime trade data. The original Customs logs or port books are lost but other sources of information remain. This thesis uses a new source of information, Richard Eaton's A Daily and Alphabetical Arrangement of all Imports and Exports at the Port of Dublin, in the Quarter ending the 25th March, 1785, as well as the shipping reports contained in the daily newspapers of the time to create a micro-history of the maritime and mercantile interaction between Ireland and her trading partners. Eaton's "List" not only gives us a complete tally of the goods exported from, and imported into Dublin in the first three months of 1785 but the customs official also recorded the names of each merchant or firm operating in Dublin at that time. This is the first time that such detailed information has been available to scholars and it is unavailable from any other source. The focus is on Dublin in 1785 and a comparison is made with another Irish port city -- Belfast. Change over time is measured by using data for the same focal cities in 1770. Ireland's key market is England and Liverpool is the increasingly popular destination for goods leaving Dublin and the port of lading for goods arriving in Dublin. Using the databases created for the purpose, this thesis analyses the relationship between Dublin/Belfast and Liverpool and discusses the patterns of trade and market structures. Although every export/import sector had a group of leading merchants, no single merchant or small group of merchants were able to wield sufficient market power to exclude competitors. All sectors of the merchant communities of Dublin, Belfast and Liverpool -- regardless of whether they dealt in primary produce, linen products or merchants' goods -- were general merchants, with little evidence of specialisation.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Master of Arts

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


MacRaild, Donald; Behrendt, Stephen D