William Stuart Trench first became associated with the Lansdowne estate in Kerry in 1849, when he compiled a detailed report on its distressed condition in the wake of the famine for the proprietor, the third marquess of Lansdowne. As agent he devised a scheme of assisted emigration which between 1850 and 1855 shipped 4,000 of the population from Kenmare to America. Through use of contemporary estate records, and by drawing on the work of modern American scholars, the present study not only analyses Trench’s emigration scheme in detail, but also provides a fascinating reconstruction of the lives of the Lansdowne emigrants in the slums and ghettos of New York.
The work provides a wealth of information on the contemporary law of land tenure, the condition of the people and the social background in terms of middlemen, farmers and labourers. Sports, pastimes and cultural activities are also described. Local politics is examined, including the pheonix and fenian movements. The work draws extensively on 2 important collections of unpublished primary source materials comprising the Lansdowne archives, housed at Bowood in Wiltshire and Dereen in Kerry as well as unpublished local diaries, newspapers, parliamentary reports and materials in the Irish Language. No other modern study of a contemporary land agent has hitherto been published.