Credit: Sean Sexton/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Historical Insights Irish Land Acts

Once a farmer was evicted from his land, demonstrators would destroy the property and sometimes physically prevent new tenants from moving onto the plot to ensure the landlord wasn’t able to make money. About 1885, Glenbeigh, Ireland. Credit: Sean Sexton/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Irish Land Acts

After decades of famine and mass evictions, tenant farmers united and lawmakers heard their cries, reforming the farming system through the Irish Land Acts at the turn of the twentieth century.

Three decades after the Great Potato Famine, an economic depression set in across Ireland starting in 1873—tenant farmers were hardest it. Rents rose, causing widespread evictions. Channeling their frustrations, homeless farmers organized into the Land League and launched a mass movement. Using violence, they threatened landlords and tenants who moved onto the land following evictions. Their tactics caught the British Prime Minister’s attention and to prevent more violence, Parliament enacted a series of reforms. The Land Law Act of 1881 gave tenants the power to sue landlords over lease violations and over the next two decades, additional laws were put in place. By 1903 most farmers saw their rent fall 20 percent and thousands of others could finally afford to purchase their leased fields. Able to profit from their harvests for the first time in decades, many Irish farmers had a fighting chance to escape the cycle of poverty that they’d endured for generations.