Unhappy the Land

In Unhappy the Land Liam Kennedy poses fundamental questions about the social and political history of Ireland and challenges cherished notions of a uniquely painful past. Images of tragedy and victimhood are deeply embedded in the national consciousness, yet when the Irish experience is viewed in the larger European context a different perspective emerges. The author’s dissection of some pivotal episodes in Irish history serves to explode commonplace assumptions about oppression, victimhood and a fate said to be comparable ‘only to that of the Jews’. Was the catastrophe of the Great Famine really an Irish Holocaust? Was the Ulster Covenant anything other than a battle-cry for ethnic conflict? Was the Proclamation of the Irish Republic a means of texting terror? And who fears to speak of an Irish War of Independence, shorn of its heroic pretensions?

Kennedy argues that the privileging of ‘the gun, the drum and the flag’ above social concerns and individual liberties gave rise to disastrous consequences for generations of Irish people. Ireland might well be a land of heroes, from Cúchulainn to Michael Collins, but it is also worth pondering Bertolt Brecht’s warning: ‘Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.’

Unhappy the Land by Liam Kennedy


  • Unhappy the Land: The Most Oppressed People Ever, the Irish? (Merrion Press, Dublin, 2016).
  • Irish Agriculture: A Price History, from the mid-eighteenth century to the eve of the First World War (Royal Irish Academy, 2007). Co-authored with Peter Solar.
  • Mapping the Great Irish Famine (Four Courts, Dublin, 1999). Principal author; co-authored with LA Clarkson, EM Crawford & P Ell.
  • Colonialism, Religion & Nationalism in Ireland (Institute of Irish Studies, Belfast, 1996).
  • People and Population Change: A Comparative Study of Population Change in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic (Dublin & Belfast, 1994).
  • The Modern Industrialisation of Ireland, 1940-1988 (Studies in Irish Economic & Social History, Dublin, 1989).
  • Two Ulsters (Belfast, 1986).

Books forthcoming:

  • Who was Responsible for the Troubles?: The Northern Ireland Conflict (McGill-Queen’s, Montreal, 2020).
  • Catholics and Protestants in Eighteenth-Century Ireland: The Irish religious censuses of the 1760s (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin, 2020). Co-authored with Kerby A. Miller & Brian Gurrin.


  • Ulster since 1600: Politics, Economy & Society (Oxford University Press, 2013). Philip Ollerenshaw. Also published as an ebook, Oxford Scholarship.
  • The Franciscan Community at Cork, and its Account Books (Irish Manuscripts Commission, 2012).
  • Scotland & Ireland: Order & Disorder, 1600-2000 (John Donald, Edinburgh, 2005). With J. Morris.
  • Marriage and the Rural Economy: Western Europe since 1400 (Brepols, Brussels, 1999). Pp. 292. ISBN 2-503-50963-0 With Isabelle Devos.
  • Crime & Punishment in West Belfast (The Summer School, West Belfast, 1995).
  • An Economic History of Ulster, 1820-1939 (Manchester University Press, 1985). With Philip Ollerenshaw.
  • Economic Theory of Cooperative Enterprises: Selected Readings (Plunkett Foundation, Oxford, 1983).


Women’s History

  • “Afterlives: Testimonies of Irish Catholic Mothers on Infant Death and the Fate of the Unbaptised”, Journal of Family History (forthcoming, 2021)
  • “Too Long a Sacrifice? Maternal Deaths in Northern Ireland during the first half of the 20th Century”, Annales de Demographie Historique, volume 139, no. 1, (2020)
  • “Did Mothers’ Lives Matter? The Protection and Promotion of Maternal and Infant Health from the 16th to the 20th Century”, introduction to a special issue of Annales de Demographie Historique, volume 139, no. 1 (2020) with Lucia Pozzi and Matteo Manfredini

Theory and Methodology

  • “Evaluation of a Model-Building Approach to the Adoption of Agricultural Innovations”, (British) Journal of Agricultural Economics, XXV111, no 1 (1977), pp 55-61.
  • “The First Agricultural Revolution: Property Rights in Their Place”, (American) Agricultural History, LVI, no 2, (1982), pp 379-90.
  • “Studies in Irish Econometric History”, Irish Historical Studies, XX111, no 91 (1983), pp 193-213.
  • “Farm Succession in Modern Ireland: Elements of a Theory of Inheritance”, Economic History Review, XLIV, no 3 (1991), pp 477-99.Reprinted in John Davis ed., Rural Change in Ireland (Institute of Irish Studies, Belfast, 1999), pp. 116-42.

Other Historical Studies

  • “A Sceptical View on the Reincarnation of the Irish ‘Gombeenman’, 1900-70”, Economic and Social Review, VIII, no 3 (1977), pp 213-22.
  • “Adoption of a Group Innovation in Irish Agriculture, 1890-1914: An Exercise in Applied History”, Oxford Agrarian Studies, VI (1976), 57-70.
  • “The Roman Catholic Church and Economic Growth in Nineteenth-Century Ireland”, Economic and Social Review, X, no 1 (1978), pp 45-59.
  • “Retail Markets in Rural Ireland at the End of the Nineteenth Century”, Irish Economic and Social History, V (1978), pp 46-63.
  • “The Early Response of the Irish Catholic Clergy to the Co-operative Movement”, Irish Historical Studies, XXI, no 81 (1979), pp 55-74. Reprinted in Alan O’ Day, Reactions to Irish Nationalism, 1865-1914 (London, 1987).
  • “Traders in the Irish Rural Economy 1880-1914”, Economic History Review, XXII, no 2 (1979), pp 201-210.
  • “Profane Images in the Irish Popular Consciousness”, Oral History, VII, no 2 (1979), pp 42-7.
  • “Regional Specialisation, Railway Development and Irish Agriculture in the Nineteenth Century” in JM Goldstrom and LA Clarkson eds, Irish Population, Economy and Society (Oxford, 1981), pp 173-93.
    Reprinted in Cormac O Grada ed, Essays in Irish Economic History  (Manchester University Press, 1994).
  • “Farmers, Traders and Agricultural Politics in Pre-Independence Ireland” in S Clark and JS Donnelly eds, Irish Peasants: Violence and   Political Unrest, 1780-1914 (Madison, Wisconsin, 1983), pp 339-373.
  • “Aspects of the Spread of the Creamery System in Ireland” in C Keating ed, Plunkett and Co-operatives (Cork, 1983), pp 92-110.
  • “Why One Million Starved: An Open Verdict”, Irish Economic and Social History, XI (1984), pp 101-106.
  • “The Rural Economy, 1820-1914” in Liam Kennedy and Philip Ollerenshaw eds, An Economic History of Ulster, 1820-1939 (Manchester, 1985), pp 1-61.
  • “Social Change in Middle Ireland”, Studies, LXXIV, (1985), pp 242-51.
  • “The Long Retreat: Protestants, Economy and Society, 1660-1926” in R Gillespie and G Moran eds, Longford: Essays in County History (Lilliput Press, Dublin, 1991), pp 31-61. With KA Miller.
  • “Nationalist Historiography and the Decline of the Irish Economy: George O’ Brien Revisited” in S Hutton and P Stewart, eds. Ireland’s Histories: Aspects of State, Society and Ideology (Routledge, London, 1991), pp 11-35. With DS Johnson.
  • “The Economic Thought of the Nation’s Lost Leader: Charles Stewart Parnell” in G Boyce and A O’ Day eds, Parnell in Perspective (Routledge, London, 1991), 171-200.
  • “Modern Ireland: Post-Colonial Society or Post-Colonial Pretensions?”, Irish Review, Winter 1992-3, 107-121.
  • “The Great Exodus: The Nineteenth Century” in P Harbison ed, The Irish Abroad (Dublin, 1992), pp 10-17.
  • “Birth, Death and Exile: Irish Population History 1700-1921” in BJ Graham and LJ Proudfoot eds, An Historical Geography of Ireland (Academic Press, London, 1993), pp 158-78. With LA Clarkson.
  • “Irish Co-operatives”, History Ireland, 11(1994), pp. 36-41. With Carla King.
  • “International Migration” in J Belchem and R Price eds, A Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century World History (Blackwell, Oxford, 1994), pp. 383-85. With DS Johnson.
  • “The Union of Ireland and Britain, 1800-1921” in George Boyce & Alan O’ Day eds, The Making of Modern Irish History: Revisionism and the Revisionist Controversy (Routledge, London, 1996). With DS Johnson.
  • “Economic and Social Statistics for Twentieth-Century Ireland: An Integrated Database” in Rena Lohan et al. eds, For the Record: Data Archives, Electronic Records, and the Needs of the Research Community (Institute of Public Administration, Dublin, 1996), pp. 79-92. With MW Dowling.
  • ‘Prices and Wages in Ireland, 1700-1850’, Irish Economic & Social History, XXIV (1997), pp. 62-104. With MW Dowling.
  • “Agriculture” in SJ Connolly, ed., The Oxford Companion to Irish History (Oxford UP, 1998), pp. 6-10.
  • “Bastardy and the Great Famine: Ireland 1845-50”, Continuity & Change, XIV, 1999), 429-52.Reprinted in Carla King, ed., Famine, Land & Culture in Ireland (University College Dublin Press, 2000), pp. 6-28.
  • “Marriage and Economic Conditions at the West European Periphery: Ireland 1600-2000” in Isabelle Devos & Liam Kennedy eds., Marriage and the Rural Economy: Western Europe since 1400 (Brepols, Brussels, 1999), pp. 85-100.
  • “Avversione al Matrimonio? L’Esperienza della Popolazione Irlandese dopo la Grande Carestia (1851-1911)”, Popolazione e Storia, no. 1 (2000), pp. 75-95. With Lucia Pozzi & Edoardo Otranto.
  • “The Famine’s Scars: William Murphy’s Ulster and American Odyssey”, Eire-Ireland (Special Issue on Irish America), XXXVI (2001), pp. 98-123. With KA Miller.Reprinted in Kevin Kenny ed., The New Irish-American History (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003).
  • “Was there an Irish War of Independence?” in Bruce Stewart ed., Hearts and Minds: Irish Culture and Society under the Act of Union (Colin Smythe, 2002: Princess Grace Irish Library Series, 2002), pp. 188-229.
  • “Irish Migration and Demography, 1659-1831” in KA Miller et al., Irish Immigrants in the Land of Canaan (OUP, 2003), pp. 656-77.
  • “Weights and Measures of the Major Food Commodities in Early 19th Century Ireland: A Regional Perspective”, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 102C, (2002), pp. 21-45. With Dermot Feenan.
  • The Cost of Living in Ireland, 1698-1998” in David Dickson & Cormac O Grada eds., Refiguring Ireland, Lilliput, Dublin, 2003), pp. 249-76
  • “The Two Economies in Ireland in the Twentieth Century” in J.R. Hill, ed, A New History of Ireland, V11, Ireland 1921-1984 (Oxford University Press, 2003), Ch. VII, 452-86. With DS Johnson.
  • “Ulster” in Joel Mokyr, ed, An Encyclopedia of Economic History (Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 142-44.
  • “Population, Economy and Society, 1750-1950” in JS Donnelly, jr., ed. Encyclopedia of Irish History and Culture (New York, 2004), Vol. 11, pp. 564-572. Also a short note on “Population Explosion”.
  • “They Shoot Children, Don’t They?” in Christian Ludwig Knoll ed., Nordirland auf dem Weg ins 21: Jahrhundert (Nordthor, Germany, 2004), pp. 57-68.
  • “Famine, Illegitimacy, and the Workhouse in Western Ireland: Kilrush, County Clare” in Alysa Levene, Thomas Nutt, and Samantha Williams eds., Illegitimacy in Britain 1700-1920 (Macmillan, 2005), pp. 122-40. With Paul Gray.
  • “Cost-of- Living Index 1698-1998” in NC Fleming & Alan O’Day, Longman Handbook of Modern Irish History since 1800 (London, 2005), pp. 565-72.
  • “Introduction” to Ireland & Scotland: Order and Disorder, 1600-2000 (Edinburgh, 2005), pp. 1-8. With RJ Morris
  • “A Sexual Revolution in the Far West?…..”, History Ireland, 2006
  • “Minorities, Majorities and Demographic Power: The Protestant & Catholic Communities of Tipperary since 1660”, in Sean Farrell and Michael de Nie, eds., Power and Popular Culture in Modern Ireland: Essays in Honour of James S. Donnelly, Jr. (Dublin:  Irish Academic Press, 2010), pp. 67-92. With Brian Gurrin and KA Miller.
  • “The Great Famine and Religious Demography in Mid-19th Century Ulster” in John Crowley et al., Atlas of the Great Irish Famine (Cork University Press, 2012), 426-33. With Brian Gurrin and KA Miller.
  • “Ulster: Communal Conflict and Demographic Change, 1600-2010”, The International Journal of Diversity in Organisations, Communities & Nations, vol. 10, 2010, pp. 225-34. With Brian Gurrin and KA Miller. ISBN 1447-9532.
  • “Marriage, Fertility, Social Class and Religion in an Irish Industrial City: Belfast 1911”, Popolazione e Storia, vol. XI, no. 2 (2010), 83-110. With Lucia Pozzi and Matteo Manfredini.
  • “Editorial Introduction”, Popolazione e Storia, no. 2 (2010), 9-16.
  • “The Planter and the Gael: Explorations in Irish Ethnic History”. In Karin White, ed., The Imaginary of the Stranger (Donegal Multi-Cultural Project, Letterkenny, 2012), pp. 13-26. With Brian Gurrin and KA Miller.
  • “People and Population Change, 1600-1914” in L.Kennedy & P. Ollerenshaw, eds., Ulster Since 1600: Politics, Economy and Society (Oxford, 2012), pp. 58-73. With Brian Gurrin and KA Miller.
  • “The Rural Economy, 1780-1914” in L.Kennedy & P. Ollerenshaw eds., Ulster Since 1600: Politics, Economy and Society (Oxford, 2012), pp. 160-176. With Peter Solar.
  • “Edwardian Belfast: Marriage Fertility and Religion in 1911” in Olwen Purdue ed., Belfast: the Emerging City, 1850-1914 (Irish Academic Press, 2013), pp. 181-209. Co-written with Lucia Pozzi and Matteo Manfredini. ISBN 978-0-7165-3167-8.
  • ‘“The People’s Fuel’: Turf in Ireland in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries”, in Richard W. Unger ed., Energy Transitions in History: Global Cases of Continuity and Change, RCC Perspectives, Special Issue, May, 2013, pp, 25-30.
  • “Markets and Price Fluctuations in England and Ireland, 1785-1913” in RJ van der Speck et al., eds., A History of Market Performance: From Ancient Babylonia to the Modern World (London, 2014), pp. 287-307. With Peter Solar.
  • “Making History in Ireland”, Dublin Review of Books, May 2017.
  • “End Games”, Dublin Review of Books, July 2020.
  • ‘“Irish Fever’ in Britain during the Great Famine:  Immigration, Disease and the Legacy of Black ’47”, Irish Historical Studies (forthcoming 2021). With Lewis Darwen, Don MacRaild and Brian Gurrin.

Political and Social Studies

  • “Factors Influencing Farmers’ Attitudes to Co-operative Amalgamation in an Irish Dairying Area”, Irish Journal of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, V, no 2 (1975), pp 253-74.
  • “Social and Economic Aspects of Co-operative Amalgamation: A Case Study”, Irish Journal of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, VIII, no 1 (1977), pp 103-114.
  • “Partition” in J McGarry and B O’ Leary eds, The Future of Northern Ireland (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990), pp 137-61.
  • “The Role of Education, Training and Research in Co-operative Development” in Kennedy (ed), cit. pp 31-42.
  • “Nightmares within Nightmares: Paramilitary Repression in Working-Class Communities” in L Kennedy (ed), Crime and Punishment in West Belfast (Belfast, 1995), pp 67-80.
  • “They Shoot Children, Don’t They” in Christian Ludwig Knoll ed., Nordirland auf dem Weg ins 21: Jahrhundert (Nordthor, Germany, 2004), pp. 57-68.
  • ‘The Proclamation is Fanciful, Evasive and Presumptuous’ in Celine Naughton ed., My 1916: What the Easter Rising Means to Me (Dublin, 2016), 109-13.

Women’s History –

  • “Afterlives: Testimonies of Irish Catholic Mothers on Infant Death and the Fate of the Unbaptised”, Journal of Family History (November, 2020)

Electronic Publications

  • Database of Irish Historical Statistics 1821-1911 (with KD Brown, LA Clarkson, JM Goldstrom). ESRC Data Archive, University of Essex, 1996.
  • Database of Economic & Social Statistics for 20th Century Ireland (with LA Clarkson, EM Crawford, MW Dowling). ESRC Data Archive, University of Essex, 1995.
  • Website: Belfast Family & Community History: https://www.belfastfamilyhistory.com/index.php

Teaching History

“Making History: Students as Historians, Reflections (Centre for Educational Development, Queen’s University, Belfast, December, 2006).

“Belfast in 1911: An Experiment in Research-led Teaching”. Paper on the webpage of Library & Archives, Canada (conference organised jointly by Library & Archives Canada and National Archives, Ireland, in Ottawa, Canada, Sept 2006). https://www.collectionscanada.ca/ireland/021019-1402-e.html.

See also the website of Belfast Family & Community History (above) as a teaching resource.

Other Writings

Book reviews for the American Historical Review, Economic History Review, History, Irish Economic & Social History, Irish Historical Studies, Saothar, Bullán, Journal of Peasant Studies, Sunday Times, Economic Journal, THES.

Foreword to Sean O’Callaghan, The Informer (London, 1998).

“Northern Ireland: Times of Terror, Times of Silence”, The Commonwealth Lawyer: Journal of the Commonwealth Lawyers’ Association, XI (2002).

“Is Fuath Liom na Filí (I Hate the Poets)”, Fortnight, November, 2007.

“1916: What was in the minds of the men who led the Easter Rising?”, BBC History Magazine, vol.9, no. 3, 2008.

“Peat: Ireland’s Traditional Fuel?”, Peatland News, no. 45, Spring 2008.

“Historic Success and Future Hopes”, Agenda Northern Ireland, March 2013.

“Was the Irish Famine a Genocide?”, Dublin Review of Books, No. 30, March, 2013. Tim Pat Coogan and Liam Kennedy in debate: https://www.drb.ie/blog/writers-and-artists/2013/02/25/was-the-famine-a-genocide-

For the radio debate, see You Tube: