More than just Troubled
“Migration and Emigration, 1600-1945”, by Donald MacRaild and Malcolm Smith, dovetails nicely with this chapter and takes the story further on.
Philip Ollerenshaw provides an overview of business and finance in Ulster between 1780 and 1945. He manages to distil into one clear survey accounts of the rise and fall of the domestic linen industry; the short-lived factory-based cotton industry; how Ulster emerged by 1870 as the world’s leading linen-producing area; railway building; the story of Belfast’s two shipyards; Derry’s heyday as a specialist in shirt making and embroidery; and the reasons why so many of the province’s export industries ran into trouble after the first World War. He is especially informative on banking, bookkeeping and stockbroking. All of this is skilfully compressed into fewer than 17 pages.
Ollerenshaw should have assigned himself additional space, if only to provide a more detailed and vivid picture of Belfast during its extraordinary Edwardian zenith. After all, Liam Kennedy, Peter Solar and Alan Greer get 31 pages between them to write (with flair, thankfully) about agriculture and the rural economy.
Readers should not be put off by number-packed tables at the start of Graham Brownlow’s “Business and Labour since 1945”. This is a lively, trenchant and, in places, excoriating analysis of the persistent weakness of Northern Ireland’s economy in recent times. Brownlow’s cracking section on the “mirage” of the economic revival of 1998 to 2008, characterised by “a bloated public sector and weak RD” and “the excessive reliance on the UK taxpayer for the prosperity of NI”, is not to be missed.
Controversially, Oxford University Press, in this and similar volumes, has plumped for footnotes (so recently the compositor’s nightmare) rather than endnotes. This works well, as it immediately alerts those who want to find out more, especially as the contributors have been at great pains to make these footnotes comprehensive and completely up to date.