|Marriage and Fertility Patterns in Urban Ireland in the Edwardian Era|
|Ireland is often seen as an outlier in relation to North and West European demographic patterns. There is much truth in this generalization in relation to age at marriage, frequency of marriage and fertility patterns. But the picture is heavily coloured by the rural character of post-Famine Irish society. What of urban Ireland? What of the demographic experience of Ireland’s only industrial city, that of Belfast?
Using a large sample of census enumerators’ household returns for Belfast in 1901 and 1911, the authors explore the “other Ireland” of urban, industrial experience. Is it the case that the demographic behaviour of textile, engineering and shipyard workers in Belfast approximates that of the working classes in industrial Britain, or is there a distinctively “Irish” dimension? As a politically and religiously divided city, there may also be significant differences in marriage and fertility patterns as between Belfast Protestants and Belfast Catholics. These communal divisions, as well as the more usual social class differences, add further layers of complexity to social and demographic life in the city. The extent to which these are reflected in marriage and fertility practices is explored within the confines of this paper, with rural Ireland and urban, industrial Britain as comparative reference points.|