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The Irish land question, the international monetary problem, and Archbishop William Walsh, 1881–1896

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-02-09, 15:22 authored by Patrick DoylePatrick Doyle

This article explores the significance to the Irish land question of a controversial issue in late nineteenth-century international political economy – bimetallism. Bimetallists advocated a monetary system that used gold and silver to define currency value rather than gold alone. Archbishop William Walsh’s support for bimetallism is analysed to highlight how Ireland provided a case-study that framed this debate. Walsh believed the gold standard deepened an agrarian crisis that drove the Irish land question. He argued that careful and internationally orchestrated reform of the monetary system offered the means for its resolution. Walsh’s bimetallist views marked him out as an original thinker within Irish nationalism, and his views were debated and adopted by monetary reformers across Britain, Europe, and the United States where they featured during the 1896 Presidential Election. Walsh’s engagement in monetary politics must also be understood within a tradition of Catholic social teaching in which he positioned himself as a critic of financial capitalism. This article contextualizes the Irish land question within wider debates on the role of silver in the global economy and argues that Walsh’s monetary thought reveals him to be a more significant international intellectual than his involvement in Irish politics tends to allow.



The Historical Journal, 2023, 66, (1), pp. 141–164


Cambridge University Press

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