Land Acts

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tenant right

W. E. Gladstone (1809—1898) prime minister and author

Arthur James Balfour (1848—1930) prime minister and philosopher

George Wyndham (1863—1913) politician and author

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Is a collective term applied to Irish land reforms enacted between the end of the 19th and early 20th cents. This legislation was an attempt to defuse the increasingly assertive peasant nationalism which was threatening the stability of British rule in Ireland. The legislation generally had two aspects: first, the immediate improvement of the tenant's contractual position, and, second, the gradual encouragement of a peasant proprietorship. Gladstone's Land Act of 1870 sought to give legal force to the Ulster custom, and to give tenants enhanced security of tenure. Conservative legislation developed these Gladstonian precedents, although the principle of land purchase (a secondary feature of the Act of 1870) was much more prominent: the ‘Ashbourne’ Land Purchase Act (1885) provided £5 million in order to fund sales of property to occupying tenants. This measure provided a precedent for the much more lavishly funded and successful Wyndham Land Act (1903). The Acts effected a social revolution in Ireland long before the Anglo‐Irish War of 1919–21.

Subjects: European History.

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