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Men and women who were born, grew up and died in Ireland between 1850 and 1922 made decisions - to train, to emigrate, to stay at home, to marry, to stay single, to stay at school - based on the knowledge and resources they had at the time. This, the first comprehensive social history of Ireland for the years 1850-1922 to appear since 1981, tries to understand that knowledge and to discuss those resources, for men and women at all social levels on the island as a whole. Original research, particularly on extreme poverty and public health, is supplemented by neglected published sources - local history journals, popular autobiography, newspapers. Folklore and Irish language sources are used extensively. All recent scholarly books in Irish social history are, of course, referred to throughout the book, but it is a lively read, reproducing the voices of the people and the stories of individuals whenever it can, questioning much of the accepted wisdom of Irish historiography over the past five decades. Statistics are used from time to time for illustrative purposes, but tables and graphs are consigned to the appendix at the back. There are some illustrations. An idea summary for the student, loaded with prompts for future research, this book is written in a non-cliched, jargon-free style aimed at the general reader.