Early nineteenth century Ireland and trade
Working on nineteenth century Irish economic history presents some rather unique challenges, the foremost of which is the dearth of data which is available. The Act of Union meant that detailed trade and industrial information for Ireland was not recorded after the mid 1820's, but subsumed into the information for the United Kingdom as a whole. There are three main sources available from which Irish trade can be reconstructed. The British Parliamentary Papers (BPP) are one of the first primary sources that must be dealt with in order to gain a general overview of this period , containing agricultural, population, occupation and literacy statistics. The main data for this series begins in the 1840's. Great work was undertaken by Queens University Belfast in 1997 transcribing the data in this series and the raw files are available from the History Data Service in the UK.
The second two sources for Irish trade data are related to one another. The 'Abstracts of Irish Exports and Imports' in the National Library of Ireland cover the period from 1764 to 1823. This is where the data available here was extracted from. These ledgers contain data for the volumes of trade undertaken from Ireland broken down by Irish ports, destinations and goods. They also contain abstracts for total volumes of Irish Trade by year. The third source is the CUST 15 ledgers available in the British National Archives in Kew. Although these two sources appear to be related and cover broadly the same period, though the CUST series goes back to the seventeenth century, there are variations in the volumes recorded in each series. The CUST 15 series covering eighteenth century trade is currently being transcribed and made available online by the Duanaire project in NUI Galway, led by Dr. Aidan Kane.
It is hoped that providing access to the data transcribed for the purposes of postgraduate research will help encourage further study of nineteenth century Irish trade in general, and Cork specifically. Although these series contain a massive amount of information they are comparatively underused. The ledgers are quite difficult objects to work with due to their size and it takes some time to extract specific information from them. The manner in which the database has been made available online is intended to provide quick access and searchability for researchers at all stages, especially those who may not have the time to travel and access these volumes. The database has also been designed to be as simple as possible. The purpose of this was to aid individuals who have data for other regions in Ireland to easily merge their datasets into this one. This would provide a more nuanced understanding of Irish trade in this period.