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Swift, the Book, and the Irish Financial Revolution

Satire and Sovereignty in Colonial Ireland

Sean D. Moore

Publication Year: 2010

Renowned as one of the most brilliant satirists ever, Jonathan Swift has long fascinated Hibernophiles beyond the shores of the Emerald Isle. Sean Moore's examination of Swift's writings and the economics behind the distribution of his work elucidates the humorist's crucial role in developing a renewed sense of nationalism among the Irish during the eighteenth century. Taking Swift's Irish satires, such as A Modest Proposal and the Drapier's Letters, as examples of anticolonial discourse, Moore unpacks the author's carefully considered published words and his deliberate drive to liberate the Dublin publishing industry from England's shadow to argue that the writer was doing nothing less than creating a national print media. He points to the actions of Anglo-Irish colonial subjects at the outset of Britain's financial revolution; inspired by Swift's dream of a sovereign Ireland, these men and women harnessed the printing press to disseminate ideas of cultural autonomy and defend the country's economic rights. Doing so, Moore contends, imbued the island with a sense of Irishness that led to a feeling of independence from England and ultimately gave the Irish a surprising degree of financial autonomy. Applying postcolonial, new economic, and book history approaches to eighteenth-century studies, Swift, the Book, and the Irish Financial Revolution effectively links the era's critiques of empire to the financial and legal motives for decolonization. Scholars of colonialism, postcolonialism, Irish studies, Atlantic studies, Swift, and the history of the book will find Moore's eye-opening arguments original and compelling.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

It is a pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to a great many people and institutions who have helped me with this book directly or indirectly. The patience and dedication of Srinivas Aravamudan, who supervised it as a dissertation, were crucial to its completion. Neil DeMarchi, Michael Moses, Thomas Pfau, James Thompson, and Jennifer Thorn provided ...

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Note to Reader

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p. xiii

Most passages of Swift’s prose works quoted in the text of this book are taken from The Prose Works of Jonathan Swift, fourteen volumes edited by Herbert Davis and published by Blackwell between 1939 and 1968. Many dates in this book are given in “old style,” the Julian calendar in which the new year began on 25 March, because the Gregorian calendar ...

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Introduction: Ireland, the Fiscal-Military State, and the Colonial Print Media

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pp. 1-25

Eighteenth-century Ireland was locked in a struggle with the British “fiscal-military state,” an imperialist political system in which the government provided military support to joint stock companies seeking to expand their trading networks.1 Wars were waged to open colonial markets, which not only enhanced the private profits of these companies but also, by bringing ever-increasing portions of the globe, including Ireland, under the control of the British Empire...

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1 “God knows how we wretches came by that fashionable thing a national debt”: The Dublin Book Trade and the Irish Financial Revolution

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pp. 26-58

Jonathan Swift’s A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture (1720) was the first major Irish-published political work he had composed since returning from England to Ireland in 1714.1 Like Daniel Defoe’s writings of the same years concerning calicos imported into England by the East India Company, this pamphlet spoke in defense of the domestic producers of cloth...

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2 Banking on Print:The Bank of Ireland, the South Sea Bubble, and the Bailout

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pp. 59-89

The 1720–21 project to create the Bank of Ireland is significant to the study of Irish economic history, the history of the Irish book, and Swift’s Irish writings in several ways. First, it marks a moment when the political basis of the Monti’s investment in Irish revenues was challenged by the Declaratory Act and by schemes to manage the Debt of the Nation through a central bank in

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3 Arachne’s Bowels: Scatology, Enlightenment, and Swift’s Relations with the London Book Trade

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pp. 90-133

Swift may have aimed to cultivate a domestic Irish book trade, but there can be no doubt that for the majority of his life, he preferred to publish his more important literary works in London.1 A Tale of a Tub, The Battle of the Books, Gulliver’s Travels, and several significant es-says and poems were first put into print by Benjamin Tooke, Benjamin Motte, and other London publishers. This does not mean that he did ...

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4 “Money, the Great Divider of the World, has, by a strange Revolution, been the great Uniter of a Most divided People”: From Minting to Printing in The Drapier’s Letters

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pp. 134-167

Swift’s skepticism of British publications reflected his belief that the book trade was deeply intertwined with enlightenment discourse, and his call in 1724–1725 for a boycott of a different medium of com-munication and exchange—currency—linked print to money in an epis-temology that integrated political, fiscal, and linguistic components of sovereignty. The needs of the Monti after the collapse of the investment ...

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5 Devouring Posterity: A Modest Proposal, Empire, and Ireland’s “Debt of the Nation”

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pp. 168-189

Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal traditionally has been regarded as an indictment of colonial landlordism in Ireland, one asserted subtly via the play between the narrator’s overt, rational tone and the author’s covert critique of it.1 This design, it has been argued, forces the reader to play the roles of three audiences, the hailing of which he or she anticipates in the process of exegeses. These are an “ideal narrative audience” ...

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6 “A Mart of Literature”: The 1730s and the Rise of a Literary Public Sphere in Ireland

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pp. 190-213

The decade that followed publication of A Modest Proposal and the establishment of a sinking fund for the Debt of the nation is significant to the study of Swift’s career and the Dublin book trade in two ways. First, it marks a time when Swift, who was growing into more of an Irish nationalist writer than a Tory publicist, was becoming more skeptical of working with London publishers and more inclined to publish his most ...

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Epilogue: A Brand Identity Crisis in a National Literature?

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pp. 214-216

Explaining Jonathan Swift’s role in the history of the Irish book is telling the story of a nation and its literature in the making. As the concept of imagined communities explains, modern nations are first created in the press, suggesting that the identity and sovereignty of the polity are inextricably bound to the success of their mediation in print. In Ireland’s case, the print media


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pp. 217-236


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pp. 237-258


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pp. 259-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780801899249
E-ISBN-10: 0801899249
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801895074
Print-ISBN-10: 0801895073

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 794700403
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Swift, the Book, and the Irish Financial Revolution

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Ireland -- History -- Autonomy and independence movements.
  • National characteristics, Irish.
  • Ireland -- Economic conditions.
  • Book industries and trade -- Ireland -- History.
  • Swift, Jonathan, -- 1667-1745 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Satire in art.
  • English literature -- Irish authors -- History and criticism.
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