Family and society in the old Irish and Anglo-Irish elite in Connaught, 1714-1914
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This thesis analyses family relationships within a minority genre in Connaught, or closely associated with the province, between the years 1714 and 1914. Focussing on Catholic and Protestant, Gaelic and Anglo-Irish gentry families, it argues that their extant personal correspondence demonstrates that relationships were based on love of spouse, of children, of siblings and of parents to greater and lesser degrees. The families whose archives provide the case studies, are sometimes connected through intermarriage over generations, and over religious divides. Some of these archives have not previously been studied and this is the first thesis of its kind, in the area and time span, that looks at the personal relationship from the perspectives of both genders and both religions, over two centuries. Using the lifecourse approach, this thesis places it into three stages. The Early Life section, covering infancy, childhood and adolescence, discusses birth, childhood illness and mortality, education of the genders and relationships. The Adult Life section focuses on several issues, beginning with courtship and marriage alliances, before moving to parenthood and care for mental and physical health of adult offspring and the associated medical treatment. It also contends that both parents were invested in their children. Within the area of married life, this thesis argues that relationships between spouses were frequently companionate and relatively equal, subject to the societal patriarchal restraints. But there were the exceptions. Sibling relationships were an important supportive aspect to family life, in conjunction with the increasing singlehood and religious life choices. The section on Later Life concludes with vulnerability in ageing, showing that in all phases family life and relationships were paramount.