About A Modest Proposal

A Modest Proposal was written by Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), who is well-known as the author of the satirical political fantasy, Gulliver's Travels. Swift published the Modest Proposal in 1729 as a pamphlet (a kind of essay in an unbound booklet). At this time, and for many years afterward, Ireland (not an independent country) was far poorer than England. Most people born there were Roman Catholics and employed as agricultural labourers or tenant farmers. The landlords (landowners) were paid from the produce of the land, at rates which the workers could rarely afford. This ruling class were usually Protestants. Many of them were not born in Ireland, nor did they live there permanently. If the labourers lost their work, there would always be other poor people to take it up. There was no social security system and starvation was as common as in the Third World today. Swift knows, in writing the Proposal, that in living memory, Irish people had been driven to cannibalism.