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The 1650s: how many died in the decade of death?


Shqiptar

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When people speak of periods when a massive drop of population occurred in Ireland, attention tends to focus on the 1845-51 period of the Great Famine. However, there have been earlier periods well into the era of historical documentation when proportionately speaking, the loss of people was greater, sometimes much greater.

The 1650s was one such decade. To put it into context, Oliver Cromwell had landed in Dublin in late 1649 and proceeded to subdue the rebellion that had begun in 1641. In the few short months he spent here, numerous towns were stormed and sacked with much slaughter and loss of life. The conflict was to continue into the early 1650s when with a scorched earth policy of destroying crops and foodstuffs and burning homesteads, the last pockets of resistance were finally overcome.

It will seem coldly analytical but I'm interested in the numbers of deaths and what I'll being doing in this thread is looking at different statistics and sources. Various sources quote William Petty who estimates that by 1652, out of a total pre-war population of 1.5 million, 618,000 had died or were killed (1). McManus seems to turn this on its head and says that out of 1.466 million, 616,000 were left alive (2).

Source 3 works with a "lowest projected figure" of 200,000 deaths pointing out that this still represented over 10% of the population. Where things get confusing is on estimates of population in 1700 when a period of calm (albeit resentful) had been imposed. Source 3 gives it as 2 million which seems scarcely believable if the population in 1652 had been roughly 1.26 million, going by the maximum estimates. Bear in mind that even though the rebellion had been largely put down by 1652, the country was still in a state of turmoil. The Act of Settlement (the "To Hell or Connaught" decree) was still to come and whilst we can only surmise, it's reasonable to assume that this would have led to conditions under which the population would have fallen further. McManus cites examples of the conditions of the time and of the people being driven westwards (4) - this in a decade which saw the onset of the Maunder Minimum when winters in Europe were particularly harsh.

The next checkpoint in Irish population figures seems to be in the late 1730s where a figure of 3 million is mooted - this ironically in tandem with another (climatic rather than human-made) disaster which led to the deaths of some 400,000 people or roughly 13% of the population (6).

All in all, Petty's absolute figures probably underestimate the total population at the time. Other researchers have since made the point that he based his figures on the Hearth Tax even though many households tended to be missed by collectors (5). One researcher (7) radically upgraded Petty's estimates by two-thirds and arrived a population of 3 million as early as 1725. Other researchers have tended towards the belief that Petty's figures aren't so wildly inaccurate (8). But to reach a population of some 3 million by the mid-18th century would have required a much higher base of population in the 1660s than Petty would appear to be suggesting.

However, the number of deaths up to 1652 may well be pretty accurate given that Petty was subtracting one underestimated figure from another which we can only assume was roughly equally underestimated. If he was out by one million or so, that still leaves a death rate that, in percentage terms, is well in excess of that that occurred during the famine of the 1840s - and that doesn't include deaths post 1652 during the implementation of the Act of Settlement.

Sources.

1. p. 214 Going to the Wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638-1651, By Charles Carlton (viewable in Google Books)
2. p. 432 The Story of the Irish Race by Seumas MacManus
3. War and Famine in Ireland, 1580-1700 | The Irish Story
4. McManus, pp 430-31
5. p. 20 An Introduction to Population, By Helen G. Daugherty (viewable in Google Books)
6. 1741: The Year of Slaughter | Irish History Podcast
7. pp 279-289, The Population of Ireland by K.H. Connell (Oxford 1950)
8. p. 3 New Developments in Irish Population History by Joel Mokyr and Cormac Ó Gráda. Viewable at: http://researchrepository.ucd.ie/bitstream/handle/10197/1406/wp83_17.pdf?sequence=1
 

dubhthach

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871
The period between 1540 and 1690 was probably the most destructive 150 years in Irish history. At the start of the 17th century at least 10% of population had died as result of the 9 year war.

Decent enough article here:

War and Famine in Ireland, 1580-1700 | The Irish Story
 
L

lochlannach

I see no reason to question Petty's estimates as to the number of deaths. He was an agent for the British so if anything he'd have underestimated the numbers killed.
 

JohnD66

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Joined
May 20, 2010
Messages
3,316
When people speak of periods when a massive drop of population occurred in Ireland, attention tends to focus on the 1845-51 period of the Great Famine. However, there have been earlier periods well into the era of historical documentation when proportionately speaking, the loss of people was greater, sometimes much greater.

The 1650s was one such decade. To put it into context, Oliver Cromwell had landed in Dublin in late 1649 and proceeded to subdue the rebellion that had begun in 1641. In the few short months he spent here, numerous towns were stormed and sacked with much slaughter and loss of life. The conflict was to continue into the early 1650s when with a scorched earth policy of destroying crops and foodstuffs and burning homesteads, the last pockets of resistance were finally overcome.

It will seem coldly analytical but I'm interested in the numbers of deaths and what I'll being doing in this thread is looking at different statistics and sources. Various sources quote William Petty who estimates that by 1652, out of a total pre-war population of 1.5 million, 618,000 had died or were killed (1). McManus seems to turn this on its head and says that out of 1.466 million, 616,000 were left alive (2).

Source 3 works with a "lowest projected figure" of 200,000 deaths pointing out that this still represented over 10% of the population. Where things get confusing is on estimates of population in 1700 when a period of calm (albeit resentful) had been imposed. Source 3 gives it as 2 million which seems scarcely believable if the population in 1652 had been roughly 1.26 million, going by the maximum estimates. Bear in mind that even though the rebellion had been largely put down by 1652, the country was still in a state of turmoil. The Act of Settlement (the "To Hell or Connaught" decree) was still to come and whilst we can only surmise, it's reasonable to assume that this would have led to conditions under which the population would have fallen further. McManus cites examples of the conditions of the time and of the people being driven westwards (4) - this in a decade which saw the onset of the Maunder Minimum when winters in Europe were particularly harsh.

The next checkpoint in Irish population figures seems to be in the late 1730s where a figure of 3 million is mooted - this ironically in tandem with another (climatic rather than human-made) disaster which led to the deaths of some 400,000 people or roughly 13% of the population (6).

All in all, Petty's absolute figures probably underestimate the total population at the time. Other researchers have since made the point that he based his figures on the Hearth Tax even though many households tended to be missed by collectors (5). One researcher (7) radically upgraded Petty's estimates by two-thirds and arrived a population of 3 million as early as 1725. Other researchers have tended towards the belief that Petty's figures aren't so wildly inaccurate (8). But to reach a population of some 3 million by the mid-18th century would have required a much higher base of population in the 1660s than Petty would appear to be suggesting.

However, the number of deaths up to 1652 may well be pretty accurate given that Petty was subtracting one underestimated figure from another which we can only assume was roughly equally underestimated. If he was out by one million or so, that still leaves a death rate that, in percentage terms, is well in excess of that that occurred during the famine of the 1840s - and that doesn't include deaths post 1652 during the implementation of the Act of Settlement.

Sources.

1. p. 214 Going to the Wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars, 1638-1651, By Charles Carlton (viewable in Google Books)
2. p. 432 The Story of the Irish Race by Seumas MacManus
3. War and Famine in Ireland, 1580-1700 | The Irish Story
4. McManus, pp 430-31
5. p. 20 An Introduction to Population, By Helen G. Daugherty (viewable in Google Books)
6. 1741: The Year of Slaughter | Irish History Podcast
7. pp 279-289, The Population of Ireland by K.H. Connell (Oxford 1950)
8. p. 3 New Developments in Irish Population History by Joel Mokyr and Cormac Ó Gráda. Viewable at: http://researchrepository.ucd.ie/bitstream/handle/10197/1406/wp83_17.pdf?sequence=1
Good OP

Historian Padraig Lenihan writes in Consolidating Conquest, p230,'It is generally accepted that fewer than 1 million people lived in Ireland in 1600 and around 2 million a century later. When one allows for mass inflows of settlers on the one hand and the heavy death toll of 1649-54 on the other, the doubling of in population implies significant natural increase or excess of births over deaths'.

Apparently Irish women married two years younger than English and had an average of 5 as opposed to 4 children, which helps to explain the rapid demographic recovery, along with influxes of settlers from England and Scotland (from the latter mainly in the 1690s). Lenihan (as above p134) estimates the demographic losses of the war of 1641-52 at between 10-20% of the population. Through a very crude estimate of about 1.5 million in 1641 (halfway between 1 and 2 million) this would mean 150,000-300,000 dead or in exile by 1652.
 

JohnD66

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I see no reason to question Petty's estimates as to the number of deaths. He was an agent for the British so if anything he'd have underestimated the numbers killed.
If you read what Petty actually says, he had no real idea of the population in 1641. It's not as if he had censuses to work with. Factor in also that he included in that the figure of 150,000 Protestant settlers massacred in 1641, which we know to be an enormous exaggeration - the true total is somewhere between 4 and 12,000 - and you can see that 650,000 is probably a substantial overestimate.
 

Cruimh

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If you read what Petty actually says, he had no real idea of the population in 1641. It's not as if he had censuses to work with. Factor in also that he included in that the figure of 150,000 Protestant settlers massacred in 1641, which we know to be an enormous exaggeration - the true total is somewhere between 4 and 12,000 - and you can see that 650,000 is probably a substantial overestimate.
John - if you follow the first reference in the OP you'll see that the "pre-war population" referred to is a guesstimate of the population of the 1630s. That rather changes everything.
 

Tea Party Patriot

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Joined
Oct 31, 2010
Messages
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All those who died in Ireland were "Killed" and by the Brits?
Yes, even the ones who keeled over from old age, the British alchemists you see they interfered with their free radicals, did you not learn anything in science class?
 
L

lochlannach

If you read what Petty actually says, he had no real idea of the population in 1641. It's not as if he had censuses to work with. Factor in also that he included in that the figure of 150,000 Protestant settlers massacred in 1641, which we know to be an enormous exaggeration - the true total is somewhere between 4 and 12,000 - and you can see that 650,000 is probably a substantial overestimate.
How does that work? He had a figure for 1649 and 1652 and subtracted them. Wouldn't both have contained the 1641 "exaggeration" and hence the exaggeration would have been cancelled out?
 
L

lochlannach

Yes, even the ones who keeled over from old age, the British alchemists you see they interfered with their free radicals, did you not learn anything in science class?
I think the point is easy enough to grasp. Left to its own devices, the population was INCREASING by about 0,5 to 1% per annum. So if it starts to fall, that's due to some unusual factors. Is it clearer now?
 

Cruimh

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Killed by Cromwell's troops or died prematurely as a result of the Cronwellian invasion.
Wow - so the food shortages of the early 1640s and the outbreaks of disease and the deaths caused by the Irish Confederate Wars BEFORE the Cromwellian invasion were BECAUSE of the Cromwellian invasion ..... Amazing!


Politics and History make terrible bed fellows.
 
L

lochlannach

Wow - so the food shortages of the early 1640s and the outbreaks of disease and the deaths caused by the Irish Confederate Wars BEFORE the Cromwellian invasion were BECAUSE of the Cromwellian invasion ..... Amazing!


Politics and History make terrible bed fellows.
As reference 1 says, Petty's estimates EXCLUDE three or more thousand Irishmen whom the English outlawed by name as traitors or the 39.000 children that would have been born were it not for the violence. How does that affect your estimate, whatever it is?
 

Cruimh

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As reference 1 says, Petty's estimates EXCLUDE three or more thousand Irishmen whom the English outlawed by name as traitors or the 39.000 children that would have been born were it not for the violence. How does that affect your estimate, whatever it is?
Sorry - can you deal with the point - the guess/figures Petty used stretched from the 1630s - so I look forward to you explaining how the arrival of Cromwell in 1649 was the Cause of the many deaths by disease, hunger and the warfare prior to his arrival. :D

You are a fine illustration of this:

To the Irish all History is Applied History, and the past is simply a convenient quarry which provides ammunition to use against enemies in the present. They have little interest in it for its own sake. So when we say the Irish are too much influenced by the past, we really mean that they are too much influenced by Irish history, which is a different matter. That is the history they learned at their mother’s knee, in school, in books and plays, on radio and television, in songs and ballads.
Page 16, The Narrow Ground A.T.Q. Stewart © 1977, 1989
 
Last edited:

firefly123

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Lucky feckers back in the 1640's. they should try living in Ireland now. It's the worst time ever in our history. EVER!


End of!!
 

Mikey Moloney

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By the way cruimh is a well known denier of Cromwell's crimes of slave trading and genocide. The David Irving of politics.ie
 

eoghanacht

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I miss Riadach.
 

Schomberg

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Care to deal with the issue?

How could Cromwell - entered Ireland 1649 - have caused all the deaths between the 1630s and the 1650s? :D
petunia
 
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