The Measures and Materiality of Improvement in Ireland

  • W. ForsytheEmail author


This paper examines the impact and evidence of Improvement thinking on domestic and social spheres. Taking the example of Ireland it examines the origin and development of improving strategies and methodologies from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, in particular the widening application of reform to incorporate domestic, educational and moral concerns. Improvement measures were imposed on communities often by a land-owning class of differing social and religious origin, engendering socio-political tension still evident in Ireland today. Equally it was a period of new commercial opportunities and social betterment creating new class divisions that have been previously undervalued. This paper draws on work on a group of islands on the northern periphery of the country, where archaeological and historical evidence demonstrate that the reforms associated with the Improvement project were still underway well into the nineteenth century.


Improvement Domestic Ireland Consumerism 



I wish to thank my colleagues Colin Breen and Rosemary McConkey, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, National Library of Ireland, and The Heritage Council.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Maritime Archaeology, School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of UlsterCo. DerryNorthern Ireland

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