History - Masters by Research Theses

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    Cork Harbour Commissioners in the nineteenth century: governance, infrastructure and revenue
    (University College Cork, 2020-10-08) McCarthy, Tom; Bielenberg, Andrew
    Cork, the port and harbour will be examined in terms of its economic history in the 19th century, with emphasis on matters of governance, infrastructure, and finances. This thesis presents an analysis and evaluation of Cork Harbour Commissioners (CHC) from its early beginnings in the 19th century up to 1900. Like many organisations, it seems that CHC responded quite slowly to the immediate challenges it faced after it was established. It took some years to develop the harbour into a safe, cost-effective, and coherent operation adequately handling the import and export demands of the port. Improvements took place over decades rather than years, but once the necessary infrastructure was put in place the benefits were immediate. Given that the region failed to industrialise, and the population of the city stagnated in the second half of the nineteenth century, and the population of its hinterland declined, the port performed reasonably well relative to its competition in the Munster region, Limerick and Waterford, and it was better served by rail and road links and its more central location to Munster’s wealthier agricultural districts. Dublin and Belfast in contrast both had demographic advantages and greater industrial development and were in a better position to handle the expansion of Anglo-Irish trade in the nineteenth century. With a combination of borrowing and increased income from imports, the state of the harbour improved significantly for shipping coming up into the city. The period between the 1860s and the end of the nineteenth century, therefore, stands out as the critical period in the development of the city quays and the channel up from Passage, in addition to the development of Queenstown for American mails and migrant traffic. In this window, the Cork Harbour Commissioners were able to mobilise sufficient capital resources to shape much of the infrastructure of the port and harbour which we can still see today. The increase in income generated by imports allowed the authority to invest in infrastructure. It is evident that CHC was able to exploit rising import revenue from a range of bulk commodities, and this helped to place the ports financial position on a far more solid footing.