Freedom of Contract – In Ireland

The MultiText Project in History is an innovative educational project, undertaken by the History Department, University College Cork, to provide resources for students of Modern Irish History at all levels. The following arresting image is available on their website:

Freedom of Contract - In Ireland

MultiText’s source for the image is the Weekly Freeman for 25 February 1882, and they comment that “the unequal nature of the landlord/tenant relationship was a major cause of the land war” (a period of civil unrest in rural Ireland in the latter half of the nineteenth century, ultimately defused by a series of Land Acts between 1870 and 1903).

The image shows an unhappy tenant seated at a table, unwillingly signing a lease. Under the table can be seen a notice to increase rent and a notice to quit. At the top are two inset images, one of John Bull, the other of a destitute family heading for the workhouse. The tenant is surrounded by three grim-looking men. One has a bill for outstanding rent in his pocket, and he is brandishing an eviction decree. Another brandishes a cudgel of some sort. The third is stabbing his finger at the lease.

The caption along the bottom reads: Freedom of Contract – In Ireland.