School Troops Resources

Economics in Ireland

[Note: Part of the HET Website.  This page is not related to or endorsed by Trinity College Dublin nor any other organization. See See the official Trinity College Dublin website]

Trinity College, in Dublin, was founded 1591 by Queen Elizabeth.  A year later, in 1592, she founded the University of Dublin, designed as a collegiate Anglican university on the same pattern as Oxford and Cambridge.  However, the University of Dublin would never have more than one constituent college - Trinity College Dublin.  As a result, TCD and UD are often spoken of synonymously, although the first is the actual college where teaching is done, the latter is merely the holder of examinations and conveyer of degrees.

In 1724, chairs were introduced in natural and experimental philosophy, in 1762 in mathematics and oriental language, in 1776 two chairs in modern languages, in 1785 chemistry and botany, and in 1791 a chair in Gaelic (Irish).

Governance was by a chancellor, vice-chancellor and the senate, conferring degrees. In addition there was the council, a body which represented the board, fellows, professors and the senate. In practice, the university was governed by a small oligarchic board and "visitors" (which consisted of the vice-chancellor and the Archbishop of Dublin), required to conducted periodic visitations. board was the center of power, it appointed all academic posts (except the Provost, which was appointed by the crown), controlled the administration and all the executive officers.

The (Anglican/Episcopalian Protestant) Church of Ireland established in 1560, and although university fellows were required to be Anglicans, there was no exclusivity on students until 1627, when Charles I took over the charter and instituted religious tests to exclude Dissenters and Catholics from attending. These test were repealed in the Catholic Relief Act of 1793 (although Anglican tests remained for professors and fellows).  After the Irish rebellion of 1798,  the Irish legislative assembly as dissolved and Ireland was integrated with the United Kingdom in the 1801 Act of Union.  Full emancipation of the Catholic population (some three-quarters of Ireland) would have to wait until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829. The Church of Ireland itself was only disestablished in 1869. Catholics received the Maynooth College in the 1790s. 

1845 Act of parliament establishing three new colleges in Ireland, "Queen's Colleges" of Belfast, Cork and Galway.  They were designed as non-denominational, with the intention of allowing Dissenters and Roman Catholics, barred from Anglican Trinity College Dublin, to attend. In 1850, Queen's University in Ireland founded to grant degrees at the three Queen's colleges.

To make the non-denominational label stick, the teaching of theology was forbidden at the Queen's Colleges.  The Catholic bishops of Ireland were dissatisfied, and forbade their constituencies from attending the "godless colleges", urging instead for the foundation of a proper Catholic university.  The (Catholic) University of Dublin was organized in 1854, depending wholly on popular contributions.  Its first rector was John Henry Newman, the famous future cardinal  Coincidentally, Newman had been Whately's main disciple and protege at Oxford, but the two men had quarreled and broken with each other c.1830. Although they sometimes moved in the same social circles in Dublin, Whately never deigned to speak to Newman again.   The Catholic University was finally formally chartered in 1908, and ninety years later, renamed "University College Dublin" in 1998, and incorporated as a constituent college of a  new larger university structure, the National University of Ireland.

Whately Chair at Dublin

Richard Whately, the leading member of the Oxford School, resigned from his the Drummond chair at Oxford University in late 1831 to take up the appointment as (Episcopalian) Archbishop of Dublin.  Within weeks of his arrival, Whately approached Trinity College with a proposal to fund a Professorship of Political Economy at TCD.  The subject not having been taught before, the proposal was greeted cautiously at first by the denizens of the university ("They thought that it was all a scheme of mine to blow up the University", Whately later recalled), but finally accepted in January 1832, although the terms of the arrangement were not finalized until March.  The chair was set up on similar terms as the Drummond Professorship: Whately would provide an emolument of £100 per annum, the professor would hold the chair for a fixed five-year term, and have to deliver nine lectures (and publish one) per year.  Candidacy was open to graduates of Trinity, Oxford and Cambridge. Where the Whately chair differed from Drummond was in the process of selection.  Whately was not willing to leave the choice of professor up to the board or convocation of Trinity College, but insisted on having a personal role in selecting the candidates himself.  This provoked resistance from some quarters of the university, but Whately insisted and finally prevailed.  Candidates for the chair would have to undertake an anonymous competitive examination, with questions set and answers reviewed personally by Whately himself, who would select a shortlist to be voted upon by the board, and reserved a final say on their ultimate choice.  This structure would continue until Whately's death in 1863.

Nine candidates applied for the first opening in the Summer of 1832, from which Whately selected three to submit to the board.  The choice finally fell on Mountiford Longfield, a lawyer and Trinity graduate, who thus became the first holder of the Whately chair, and the first professor of economics in Ireland. 

Trinity College Dublin bred a famous generation of students in the 1840s, including John Kells  Ingram, T.E. Cliffe-Leslie, John Elliot Cairnes and William E. Hearn.  

The Dublin Statistical Society was founded on November 23, 1847, with Richard Whately as its first president, and Longfield and Lascom as vice-presidents.  In 1849, the DSS took over the administration of the Barrington Fund, a trust fund established by Dublin merchant John Barrington back in 1834 to fund lectures in political economy for working men in various towns throughout Ireland.

(to be completed)


Holders of the Whately Chair at Trinity College Dublin

1832 - Mountiford Longfield
1836 - Isaac Butt
1841 - James A. Lawson
1846 - W. Neilson Hancock
1851 -Richard H. Walsh
1856 - John Elliot Cairnes
1861 - Arthur Houston
1866 - James Slattery
1872 - Robert Donnell
1877 - J. Johnston Shaw
1882 - Charles Francis Bastable
1932 - George A. Duncan

Queen's College Belfast

1849 W.N. Hancock
1853 T.E. Cliffe-Leslie

Queen's College Cork
1849 R.H. Mills

Queen's College Galway

1850 D.C. Heron
1859 J.E. Cairnes
1870 Wm. Lupton

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Resources on Ireland

  • Papers Read Before the Dublin Statistical Society, 1848-1854 [bk], collection of pamphlets, in order
  • Journal of the Dublin Statistical Society, 1855-56 v.1, 1857-62 v.2
  • Dublin University Commission report, 1852-53 [bk]
  • Dublin University Calendar  - 1899
  • "The Irish University Question" by H.D. Hutton, 1870, Fortnightly Review
  • "Ireland" in Kibble's Cyclopedia of Education, 1883
  • Political Economy and Colonial Ireland: The Propagation and Ideological Function of Economic Discourse in the Nineteenth Century by T.A. Boylan and T.P. Foley, 1992 - selections
  • Sanctissimi Domini Nostri Gregorii, Divina Providencia Papae XVI. Epistola Encyclica ad omnes Patriarchas, Primates, Archiepiscopos, et Episcopos, 1832  (Latin/English bilingual) [bk]
  • The Encyclical Letter of Pope Gregory XVI, bearing date August 16th, 1832, addressed to all the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishop and Bishops, translated closely from the Latin original, with notes, critical and historical, 1833 [bk]
  • [Peud.] Sanctissimi domini nostri Gregorii papae xvi. epistola ad archiepiscopos et episcopos Hiberniae, translated from the original Latin, and now first published by [J.H. Todd] 1836 (satirical)
  • The Reply to Pope Gregory's Late Letter to the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland, with a preface establishing the authenticity of that document by Anon [J.H. Todd], 1836 [bk]
  • A Second Edition of a Pamphlet Lately Published under the title of A Letter of our Most Holy Father by Divine Providence Pope Gregory XVI to the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland, with an explanatory introduction by the author, by J.H. Todd, 1836 [bk]
  • History of the City of Dublin by J.T. Gilbert, 1854 v.1, 1859, v.2, v.3
  • History of Economics at Trinity College, Dublin


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