Cork’s international trade during the first industrial revolution

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Kirwan, Luke
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University College Cork
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This thesis explores the impact international trade and commercial agreements had on the economic and industrial development of Cork during the first industrial revolution. From the Act of Union onwards Cork moved from a region where trade became increasingly reliant on Britain at the expense of trade that had been cultivated over the eighteenth century with the Americas and Europe. The legislative underpinnings of Cork’s trade is the focus of this research and how this changed after the Act of Union. It begins by examining the transatlantic trade of Cork city and the issues faced in the West Indies trade due to the growth of the United States. It will also consider the impact of the Napoleonic Wars on Cork’s trade with both the Americas and continental Europe. The conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars saw the United Kingdom negotiate treaties and agreements that would have a direct impact upon Cork’s merchants. This thesis will address the degree to which the mercantile community in Cork were able to influence policy that directly impacted upon their trade networks. It will then examine the trade between Cork and the United Kingdom and assess the impact of the Union on the ability of Cork’s merchants to affect political change. The operation of the Committee of Merchants in Cork is detailed and their responses to the changing nature of international trade. The thesis finishes by examining the underdevelopment of Cork’s transportation networks. This work will place Cork’s international trade in both its national and international context and argues that Cork’s mercantile community were overly reliant on protectionist legislation to further Cork’s trade as opposed to investment in industrial development. Volumetric data on the trade of Cork city has been transcribed and made available in a relational database to support the arguments made in this thesis and to facilitate future research on this subject. This database is accessible at
Cork , Cork city , Irish trade , Nineteenth century , Atlantic economy , Eighteenth century , Ireland , Caribbean trade , European trade , Committee of merchants , International trade , Atlantic commerce , Industrial revolution , Digital humanities , Digital arts and humanities
Kirwan, L. 2016. Cork’s international trade during the first industrial revolution. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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