Speculative Minds in Georgian Ireland Novelty, experiment and widening horizons


Alison Fitzgerald, Toby Barnard

Regular price $56.00

Four Courts Press, 2023
Hardback, 256 pages

Between 1750 and 1837 Ireland encountered new ideas, commodities and experiences. While political upheavals and international warfare have been thoroughly explored, the novelties in the domestic sphere and daily life remain hazy. This collection, which began with a symposium in summer 2021, investigates a wide and varied range of the innovations. Changes in how homes were furnished and decorated, what shops stocked, what was available to plant in gardens, what the newspapers published, how the poor might be fed economically and employed usefully are all investigated. Through commodities like sugar and through personal experiences many in Ireland confronted the unfamiliar and exotic. ‘Novelty’ – in individuals’ lives and of goods – was at a premium. Those from Ireland gazed at the heavens, travelled to the Caribbean, devised manufactures to improve daily life, or speculated about how to release the untapped potential of the island. The results, whether inspired by curiosity, a zest for experimentation, fashion, profiteering, patriotism or civic conscience, permeated modest homes, small workshops and larger manufactories. Professionals, the middling sorts and the obscure, not just landed grandees, emerge as the vital innovators, inventors and patrons. Individually and collectively, the essays reveal numerous unexpected worlds within and beyond Ireland.

Toby Barnard is emeritus fellow in history of Hertford College, Oxford. Alison FitzGerald is associate professor, Department of History, National University of Ireland, Maynooth.