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The Big House in the North of Ireland
Land, Power and Social Elites, 1878-1960

Olwen Purdue (author)
Publication date:
26th May 2009

Author Biography

Olwen Purdue is currently at Queen's University, Belfast, researching poverty and welfare in the north of Ireland during the nineteenth century. Her PhD at Queen's University, Belfast, was on the decline of the landed class in the north of Ireland.


"The Big House in the North of Ireland" explores the changing fortunes of the landed elite in the six counties that became Northern Ireland from the land war of the late 1870s to the last days of the Unionist government at Stormont in the 1960s. Purdue examines the social, economic and political challenges faced by the north's landed elite - tenant agitation, the break-up of their estates and the growing political challenge initially from Belfast's mercantile class and, eventually, from populist political movements - and determines the extent to which these undermined the foundations of their influence. She discusses the strategies adopted by the north's landed class to meet the challenges it faced and uncovers the reasons for the Big House clinging on as a social and political force in Northern Ireland long after it had ceased to hold any value in the rest of the island.