This chapter illustrates the socio-economic background of South Munster. Cork city was the vibrant heart of the highly commercialized south Munster region. The second largest city of Ireland had successfully established itself as a key port for provisions in the north Atlantic trade network. The driving force behind this process of commercialization was a combination of improving landlords and an interwoven stratum of merchants, shippers and agricultural middlemen. Consecutively, the rapid expansion of market capitalism created strong internal trade links between Cork city and the surrounding agricultural districts. An important result of commercialization was the tripartite division of rural society into predominantly Protestant upper class gentry of landowners, a largely Catholic middling order of farmers and cattlemen. It is exactly this type of advanced economic region, centred on a cosmopolitan city, which is associated with the emergence of radical republicanism in Ireland in the 1790s.
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