'Irish population in serious decline before Vikings arrived, research finds' - Really?

Barroso

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 1, 2011
Messages
4,156
Oh the Monasteries and Bishops were integral to the political systems in Ireland since long before even Viking times. The Church had huge power here and we owe much of what we know of those times to Church backed scribes writing up the Annals.

The fact that Ireland had so many parishes - IIRC some 2,500 or so - indicates a high degree of Church involvement in the social and political fabric of Medieval Ireland.
I thought I read somewhere that parishes and dioceses were set up in the early 12th century in an attempt to bring Ireland into line with general practice in Europe, and that prior to that bishops were more likely to have some function in relation to monasteries.
Indeed, if parishes in particular were new foundations, it is quite likely that they were not the same type of unit - area and population wise - that they were in England and on the continent, so maybe we should not read too much into how many of them there were vis-a-vis the situation in England.
 


Malcolm Redfellow

Well-known member
Joined
Sep 29, 2009
Messages
4,103
Website
redfellow.blogspot.com
Twitter
mredfellow
One of the counties in your link, Norfolk, was estimated to have a population of 486,000 in 1290 – with an area of 2,000 sq miles, this gives a density of 243 per sq míle (actually more, as present-day Norfolk includes areas of reclaimed land).
I'm not challenging that, but I'd like a source.

What we do have to go on is Domesday, which seems highly precise on Norfolk — 1,836 villages with a total population of 42,783.

OK: the Norman period made Norwich a major city — by 1086 the fourth largest borough in England. The transfer of the episcopal seat from Thetford dates only from 1094 — but the Norman practice was to build cathedrals in thriving commercial centres (and Norwich had the advantage of being on a navigable river, essential for the import of the stone for Herbert de Losinga's planned cathedral). Herbert tolerated at best the Cluniac house at Thetford; and had a running feud with the richest of the East Anglian monasteries at Bury St Edmunds (though he seems to have mulcted some tax). He built a second monastery, St Leonard, and a leper hospital, St Mary Magdalene, along with his palace and chapel. All that indicates substantial development — in addition to which St Nicholas and St Margaret (at Yarmouth and 'Bishop's' Lynn) were set up as benedictine cells of the Cathedral priory.

Norfolk, then, was prospering. Norwich (1358 households in Domesday), Yarmouth (92 households), Wells (57 households so bigger then than Lynn's 27 households) had flourishing trade with the near continent — grain and wool in particular. Herbert recognised "Bishop's' Lynn as a settlement on his Gaywood estate — and the Hanseatic link made it the third largest English port by the thirteenth century.

So I don't see much useful comparison with contemporary Ireland. And I certainly am wary about the county population increasing by a factor of more than ten over two centuries.
 

jmcc

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Messages
42,359
'Dances with Wolves' isn't something I'd consider a strong historical source or even observation.
It is just that it is the common image of societies in the Americas, Lumpy. The reality is that there were some rather sophisticated societies over the millenia and some of them collapsed due to climate and other causes. There was some research on a tribe that farmed a large area (I think close to the Canadian border) and it was quite sophisticated in terms of the area farmed and the methods used.
 

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
27,785
Twitter
No
It is just that it is the common image of societies in the Americas, Lumpy. The reality is that there were some rather sophisticated societies over the millenia and some of them collapsed due to climate and other causes. There was some research on a tribe that farmed a large area (I think close to the Canadian border) and it was quite sophisticated in terms of the area farmed and the methods used.
Absolutely. A people that were demonised and dehumanised necessarily in order to complete land-grabs on land that they had lived on for milennia. Should ring a bell.

And they were a much more sophisticated culture than was portrayed of course in the media of the day.

Colonisers always do that. Disparage the society they are displacing and demonise in order to make the colonisation look more 'righteous'.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 15, 2011
Messages
10,898
Well I think the following shows that my population model is reasonably close to accuracy though obviously historical population models pre circa the 18/19th centuries are educated guesses.

I postulated 1,380, 000 people in Ireland circa 1300 AD.

800 AD 485,000
900 AD 625,000
1000 AD 720,000
1100 AD 870,000
1200 AD 1,060,000
1300 AD 1,380,000

Now to try and firm this up as best that can be done in the bogs of historical demographics!

My starting point is the latest research I have found online [2010] for medieval population estimates for England.

Then added to that is some information on the relative number of total parishes in these islands circa 1290 with particular reference to England and Ireland.

So the references first and then some breakdown of the figures.

ENGLISH MEDIEVAL POPULATION: RECONCILING TIME SERIES AND CROSS SECTIONAL EVIDENCE [2010]

TABLE 6: English population, 1086-1541 (millions)
Total population:
1086 1.71
1190 3.10
1220 3.97
1250 4.23
1279 4.43
1290 4.75
1315 4.69
1325 4.12
1348 4.81
1351 2.60
1377 2.50
1400 2.08
1430 2.02
1450 1.90
1522 2.35
1541 2.83

Sources: benchmark years 1086-1450 from Table 4, with absolute level determined by the “best estimate” for 1377 from Table 2. Benchmarks for 1522 from Cornwall (1970: 39) and for 1541 from Wrigley et al. (1997) with interpolation of quinquennial data using Wrigley and Schofield (1989: 531).
https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/sbroadberry/wp/medievalpopulation7.pdf

Now from a recent Irish publication:

Religion, Landscape & Settlement in Ireland: From Patrick to Present
Kevin Whelan
by 1290 Britain and Ireland contained almost 1,500 monastic foundations. england accounted for seventy per cent: two out of three houses of mendicant friars were in England, as were three out of four monastries, the more expensive foundation. Ireland boasted the next greatest number of religious houses - one fifth of the total ....
of 12,190 parishes in Britain and Ireland, England had sixty-six precent, Ireland had twenty per cent, while Scotland and Wales together accounted for just fourteen per cent [despite comprising one-third of the land area]
. page 27.

Now my reasoning while I think I am on the right track [bit of repeating here so forgive me!]

We start with the following bald figures based on first my own estimate for Ireland and then the latest learned estimate for England:

1300 AD 1.38 million people in Ireland
1290 AD 4.75 million people in England

If these figures are reasonably close to the mark then Ireland had approx 29% of the population of England circa 1300*

Ireland has 32,599 square miles
England has 50,346 square miles
Thus Ireland is about 65% the size of England.

Ireland at this time had approx. 42 people per square mile.
England had approx. 94 people per square mile.

So we would have an overall population density per square mile of 45% of that of England at that time - less than half.

But on area size Ireland would have had a population of 3,087,000 people if if had the same food production level of England.

So we had a carrying capacity of the Environment of just under half that of our largest neighbour at that time.

* I noted in the volume Religion, Landscape & Settlement in Ireland: From Patrick to Present by Kevin Whelan that:
by 1290 Britain and Ireland contained almost 1,500 monastic foundations. england accounted for seventy per cent: two out of three houses of mendicant friars were in England, as were three out of four monastries, the more expensive foundation. Ireland boasted the next greatest number of religious houses - one fifth of the total ....
of 12,190 parishes in Britain and Ireland, England had sixty-six precent, Ireland had twenty per cent, while Scotland and Wales together accounted for just fourteen per cent [despite comprising one-third of the land area]
. [page 27]

Thus Ireland at 20% would have had just under one third [30%] of the parishes of that of England at 66%. I have already postulated a figure of 1,380,000 million people in Ireland circa the year 1300. Which (again if correct) would be 29% of the population of England at around 4,750,000 people.

This gives me confidence that I am on the right track and that the population model I constructed has at least some validity.

Obviously all figures are conjectural but I am satisfied that estimate of 1,380,000 million people in Ireland for the year 1300 is reasonably close to the mark if compared to the latest historical demographic research that is available for the Kingdom of England at roughly the same time.

Please feel to comment ….
At the risk of further statistically embarrassing myself..........

A population of England circa 1300 of 4.75 million seems very high....that’s a population density of 95 per square mile.....that’s getting close to the estimated density levels of Flanders which had the highest density level in Europe.

I suppose that Doomsday gives us the best fix of a population figure but how about making some rough comparisons against other countries. Ireland with 45% of the population density of England doesn’t sound unreasonable but how does that compare with say that of Scotland? If you take the population of England and Wales circa 1100 to be 2 million I think the rough estimate for Scotland at that time is about 300,000 giving a pop density of 10 per square mile versus 34 per square mile for England and Wales.

By 1300 accordions to Urlanis’ estimates Scotland’s population was 400,000....a density of 13 per square mile. He puts England& Wales’ at 3,000,000 ....59 per square mile. England&Wales density had increased by 75% whereas Scotland’s had only increased by about 33%. Seems that agricultural productivity in Scotland lag significantly behind that of England’s. I think that a similar lag may have applied to Irish agricultural productivity also.

1597CC17-8A69-462F-BD84-0018491A2E2C.png
 
Last edited:

Nebuchadnezzar

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 15, 2011
Messages
10,898
That population table above allows for easy comparisons but it’s a very old source......1941

Urlanis, B T︠S︡ (1941). Rost naselenii︠a︡ v Evrope : opyt ischislenii︠a︡ [Population growth in Europe] (in Russian). Moskva: OGIZ-Gospolitizdat.

Is it still accepted as being broadly valid?
 

Catahualpa

Well-known member
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
669
Website
irelandinhistory.blogspot.com
That population table above allows for easy comparisons but it’s a very old source......1941

Urlanis, B T︠S︡ (1941). Rost naselenii︠a︡ v Evrope : opyt ischislenii︠a︡ [Population growth in Europe] (in Russian). Moskva: OGIZ-Gospolitizdat.

Is it still accepted as being broadly valid?
I would not think so as its a field of study that is ever changing...

The figures for Ireland would give us pretty well a static population over a time period of nearly 500 years!
 

Catahualpa

Well-known member
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
669
Website
irelandinhistory.blogspot.com
I thought I read somewhere that parishes and dioceses were set up in the early 12th century in an attempt to bring Ireland into line with general practice in Europe, and that prior to that bishops were more likely to have some function in relation to monasteries.
Indeed, if parishes in particular were new foundations, it is quite likely that they were not the same type of unit - area and population wise - that they were in England and on the continent, so maybe we should not read too much into how many of them there were vis-a-vis the situation in England.
Yes the Irish Church was reformed in the 12th century - a process well underway before the Norman Invasion.

It was part though of a Europe wide Reform initiated by the Papacy and not particularly related to Ireland by any means.

The size of parishes varied of course but outside of towns a good rule of the thumb seems to indicate that a parish church should be within a two mile walk for any particular parishioner - say covering an area of approx. 16 sq miles.

Though if we allow for 2,500 parishes in Ireland circa 1300 then we get a slightly lower area of coverage at about around 13 sq miles covered by each parish.

Obviously that is an average and there must have been remote and isolated parishes that were bigger just as parishes within the walls of towns and cities were relatively tiny in the area they served.

If we take the average population density per sq mile in 1300 to 42 persons per sq mile and the average size of a parish to be 13 sq miles then we get an average of 546 persons to each parish

- a not unreasonable figure I would say.

ADD - I read here now:
The second numerical count is that of parishes, of which there were about twenty-four hundred. Medieval parishes varied enormously in size: at one extreme were the extensive parishes of the most mountainous districts; at the other the smallest parishes of inner Dublin amounting to a few acres of ground, though with a population of several hundred. In the year 1300 Dublin had sixteen parish churches, seven within the walls and nine outside. If the estimated total population of the city at that time of eleven thousand can be accepted, the average number of parishioners per parish would have been a little under seven hundred.
 
Last edited:

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
27,785
Twitter
No
Heh. 'Reformed'. The Irish Catholic Church effectively disappeared under a wave of mendicant friars sent in to enforce discipline direct from Rome. It has been the RCC ever since. Regrettably.
 

McTell

Well-known member
Joined
Oct 16, 2012
Messages
6,585
Twitter
No
Archaeologists think that we were better organised in the 200 years before the norman conquest.

I can't see how we could be in population decline, while also having to deal with the vikings, and reorganising at the local level. If the vikings were selling some of us as slaves (which meant we were selling the nabors to them), that would also drop the numbers.

Or could it be that with a static population that was becoming better organised, we didn't need the extra hands. Is a larger disorganised (and hungrier) population any use to the next generation?
 

Catahualpa

Well-known member
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
669
Website
irelandinhistory.blogspot.com
Archaeologists think that we were better organised in the 200 years before the norman conquest.

I can't see how we could be in population decline, while also having to deal with the vikings, and reorganising at the local level. If the vikings were selling some of us as slaves (which meant we were selling the nabors to them), that would also drop the numbers.

Or could it be that with a static population that was becoming better organised, we didn't need the extra hands. Is a larger disorganised (and hungrier) population any use to the next generation?
The Norman Conquest here began in 1169, 200 years before that was 969. The great Slave raids were over by that stage.

Indeed the Viking controlled ports were hives of activity and were fuelling Trade and population growth, albeit on a relatively small scale.

Famine, Disease & War were the three great determinants if populations grew or fell. We don't have any evidence that the 1st two had much effect in the Viking Age [though they certainly did beforehand].

The Vikings were firstly Raiders and later more so Traders. They would not have had much effect on population numbers overall.

Sure they took women for wives, concubines and servants - but they would not have killed them. Latterly they would have taken more High Class captives for Ransom - not to kill them [unless no Ransom was paid].

The one group earlier on they did target for elimination was the Priests and Monks who they saw as Faith based enemies. They followed Thor and the Norse Gods - they were warriors who sought their place in Valhalla and viewed Christianity as an Alien Concept.

Eventually as they developed a Modus Operandi with the Irish Kingdoms this Berserker attitude faded and the Christian Religion gained a foothold amongst them [perhaps through the offspring of their Irish wives] but not we note the other way round!
 
Last edited:

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
27,785
Twitter
No
Cattle-wiper, you are reading too many scripture based websites. You can always tell by the funky over-use of capital letters.

Some of us, and possibly a growing number now that the poppy-field effect has dissipated, are well aware that the 'christian religion' is an alien concept. It certainly isn't native either to the Scandinavian countries or Ireland.
 

Catahualpa

Well-known member
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
669
Website
irelandinhistory.blogspot.com
TBH mate I doubt you have ever read a book on Irish History in your adult life.

Now if you want to open thread on your own zany take on the History of Ireland then please do so.

This one is on Irish Historical Population Demographics

- if you have anything to add to this Debate then please do so...
 

Catahualpa

Well-known member
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
669
Website
irelandinhistory.blogspot.com
Interesting article here:

By the late 13th century medieval Dublin had reached its zenith. Having benefited from over a century of trade, it was unquestionably the primary settlement in Ireland. While not the biggest walled town – it was surpassed by Drogheda and New Ross – its sprawling suburbs made it the most populous settlement with ten to fifteen thousand people living along the banks of the Liffey. Although it was the centre of Norman colonial administration, containing the exchequer buildings, it was not the busiest port, as judging from customs receipts, by the late 13th century this honour fell to New Ross.

While economically the wider Anglo-Norman colony reached its zenith between 1292-4, when the exchequer was returning around £9,000 per year, colonial society was already in decline...

Famine also began taking its toll as Ireland suffered serious food shortages in 1295, and again in 1308. These crises obviously had an economic impact reflected in the fall in exchequer receipts from the previous year by 1306-07 to £58931 – a fall of over 33% since the early 1290s.


So it looks Ireland [or at least the Pale] was already under demographic pressure before the Twin Hydras of War and Famine struck in 1315 AD

However IIRC that was pretty well the same situation in England with population decline already evident before the Famines of 1315-1318.
 

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
27,785
Twitter
No
TBH mate I doubt you have ever read a book on Irish History in your adult life.

Now if you want to open thread on your own zany take on the History of Ireland then please do so.

This one is on Irish Historical Population Demographics

- if you have anything to add to this Debate then please do so...
Not a bad idea. 'Christianity: 'An Alien Concept'. Mind if I credit you with the title?

On the subject of the thread I think you'll find I have already been contributing to the thread. If I recall correctly I think I actually gave you a 'like' for one of your posts on the thread.

Have a nice evening.
 

Nebuchadnezzar

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 15, 2011
Messages
10,898
Interesting article here:

By the late 13th century medieval Dublin had reached its zenith. Having benefited from over a century of trade, it was unquestionably the primary settlement in Ireland. While not the biggest walled town – it was surpassed by Drogheda and New Ross – its sprawling suburbs made it the most populous settlement with ten to fifteen thousand people living along the banks of the Liffey. Although it was the centre of Norman colonial administration, containing the exchequer buildings, it was not the busiest port, as judging from customs receipts, by the late 13th century this honour fell to New Ross.

While economically the wider Anglo-Norman colony reached its zenith between 1292-4, when the exchequer was returning around £9,000 per year, colonial society was already in decline...

Famine also began taking its toll as Ireland suffered serious food shortages in 1295, and again in 1308. These crises obviously had an economic impact reflected in the fall in exchequer receipts from the previous year by 1306-07 to £58931 – a fall of over 33% since the early 1290s.


So it looks Ireland [or at least the Pale] was already under demographic pressure before the Twin Hydras of War and Famine struck in 1315 AD

However IIRC that was pretty well the same situation in England with population decline already evident before the Famines of 1315-1318.
Population decline reflecting a general economic decline from the late 13th century onwards?

From my 1169 thread of a few months ago (which unfortunately never flourished 😢)....

4. By the 1250s the possibility that English rule might make Ireland prosperous had passed. External demands by the papacy and Crown were mounting, Gaelic opposition was stiffening and, more generally, the commercial revolution was running out of steam.

5. Like other geographically peripheral regions, Ireland functioned with the international commercial economy as a producer of cheap raw materials.

6. Politically and commercially it remained subordinate to powerful external vested interest groups. It’s port towns were instruments of extraction rather than spearheads of growth.

7. The Lordship’s shallow economic prosperity was contingent upon the enduring vitality of European commerce. Recession set in fromthe 1280s when, across Europe the commercial tide turned and began fast to ebb.

8. As commercial opportunities and revenues shrank, increasing resort was made to plundering, rustling and raiding as means of securing resources. Economic decline thereby became self perpetuating.

9. By the 1310s the Lordship was bust. It is the mounting chaos of the 14th C which makes the 13th C look prosperous but, in truth, the Lordship of Ireland was never an economic success story.

 

Catahualpa

Well-known member
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
669
Website
irelandinhistory.blogspot.com

Lumpy Talbot

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 30, 2015
Messages
27,785
Twitter
No
I'd take some convincing. One of those sums that just feels like there's something not quite right but I don't know what it is.
 

Catahualpa

Well-known member
Joined
May 12, 2019
Messages
669
Website
irelandinhistory.blogspot.com
Population decline reflecting a general economic decline from the late 13th century onwards?

From my 1169 thread of a few months ago (which unfortunately never flourished 😢)....

4. By the 1250s the possibility that English rule might make Ireland prosperous had passed. External demands by the papacy and Crown were mounting, Gaelic opposition was stiffening and, more generally, the commercial revolution was running out of steam.

5. Like other geographically peripheral regions, Ireland functioned with the international commercial economy as a producer of cheap raw materials.

6. Politically and commercially it remained subordinate to powerful external vested interest groups. It’s port towns were instruments of extraction rather than spearheads of growth.

7. The Lordship’s shallow economic prosperity was contingent upon the enduring vitality of European commerce. Recession set in fromthe 1280s when, across Europe the commercial tide turned and began fast to ebb.

8. As commercial opportunities and revenues shrank, increasing resort was made to plundering, rustling and raiding as means of securing resources. Economic decline thereby became self perpetuating.

9. By the 1310s the Lordship was bust. It is the mounting chaos of the 14th C which makes the 13th C look prosperous but, in truth, the Lordship of Ireland was never an economic success story.

On the basis of further reading I think my figures for circa 1300 AD is somewhat too high.

I need to do some revising but I would still say the population of the Country was well over One Million souls.

While the Colony might have suffered from economic decline as it was tied into the economy of England the Gaelic areas would not have been so much effected by the decline in demand.
 


New Threads

Most Replies

Top