Pandemics, poverty and population
: essays in economic history

  • Aine Doran

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


My thesis addresses several questions which relate to the link between demography and economics. The first set of questions relates to the topic of famine. I ask if pre-famine conditions correlate with famine severity and if population pressure is a cause of famine. This is examined in the context of nineteenth-century Ireland. High-resolution spatial data is used to establish what was contributing to increasing poverty before the Famine, and how these factors and poverty were correlated with Famine population loss.

The second area I look at is fertility and its relationship with financial development. The context of pre-Famine Ireland is used as a test of the old-age support hypothesis by using access to different types of microfinance institutions at parish-level.

The final area of focus is historical pandemics. I carry out a systematic review of the pre-Covid-19 literature on all pandemics which have occurred since the Industrial Revolution, focusing on their economic and demographic impacts. From this, we can identify what we already know about pandemics, while also highlighting the gaps in the literature which economic historians can address to make us better placed to deal with future pandemics.
Date of AwardJul 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorAlan Fernihough (Supervisor) & John Turner (Supervisor)


  • Economics
  • demography
  • Ireland
  • famine
  • pandemic
  • fertility
  • 19th century
  • pre-Famine
  • living standards

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