To Comfort the Afflicted

Behind the scene ...

Sadness and pain can afflict people in many ways. In nineteenth century Ireland, death was not far from the door. Behind the research studies and the statistics are the stories of real people. Prunty (1998, p. 7) observes that “the questions of poverty, disease, slum housing and poor relief were susceptible to an infinite amount of painstaking research but the translation into effective action was invariably fraught with innumerable complications.”

The Census of 1841 marked the first nationwide gathering of a broad range of data on social conditions in Ireland. Health conditions and the quality of housing were closely linked. Prunty (1998, p. 72, citing Willis, 1845) notes that “The Tables on house accommodation ... provided a country-wide context into which the Dublin slum situation could be placed. Willis noted that 81.46% of the entire population had only 3rd or 4th class accommodation, and, of these, 52.12% had only a mud hovel/single room; within Dublin, the census testified that almost half of all families had ‘the wretched and pestiferous accommodation of a single room’ ...”. The improvement of social conditions for vulnerable people was linked to many other factors, especially provision of education.


Prunty, J. (1998) Dublin Slums 1800-1925: A Study in Urban Geography Dublin: Irish Academic Press.