After the creation of the United Kingdom in 1801, Irish farms became important exporters of live pigs and bacon to Britain. The history of the Irish pork trade can help to explain Ireland's place within the British empire in the four decades between the Union and the beginning of the Great Famine (1845-1851). Irish farming was capital-poor, labour-intensive and low-technology. Many Irish workers earned wages for agricultural labour, but depended on potatoes, grown for subsistence. Pigs were in synergy with potatoes. A poor family could fatten a pig on potato scraps and sell the animal for cash to pay rent. Infrastructure built to carry pigs and other livestock to Britain from Ireland also carried Irish migrant workers. Ports, railroads and markets were designed to receive and market hundreds of thousands of swine. Most Irish farms were too small to keep more than one or two pigs. Many Irish families lived in very close proximity to their pigs, sometimes sharing a living space. Pigs were a symbol - and an agent - of the contradictions of Ireland's place in the United Kingdom.
Our CIRHR Work-In-Progress Seminar series allows members of our community to discuss early-stage research. Future guest speakers include: