The Transmutation of the Irish

Ted McCormick

in William Petty

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780199547890
Published online September 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780191720529 | DOI:
The Transmutation of the Irish

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This chapter examines Petty's first articulation of political arithmetic (and the related concept of ‘political anatomy’) in the early 1670s. Examining Petty's manuscripts in light of his intellectual development and against a background of resurgent Catholic opposition to the Irish land settlement, it reveals political arithmetic's origins as a policy program for settling and improving Ireland. Combining Hartlibian improvement proposals, elements of earlier English writing on Irish plantation, a demographic vision of politics, and a conceptual framework derived from corpuscularian models of alchemy, political arithmetic promised to ‘transmute the Irish into English’ through a series of forced population exchanges, intermarriage, and procreation. Installing English women in Irish households, Petty's Baconian program of social engineering would harness the natural affections of men for women and mothers for children to fuse the two populations, channeling nature to produce desirable qualities — industry and loyalty — in human populations.

Keywords: political arithmetic; political anatomy; alchemy; social engineering; household; Ireland; women; population

Chapter.  17273 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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