The cruelty man

Child welfare, the NSPCC and the State in Ireland, 1889–1956

By Sarah-Anne Buckley

The cruelty man


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-0896-8
  • Pages: 248
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £27.99
  • Published Date: June 2017
  • BIC Category: Sociology, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Philanthropy & Charity, Age groups: children, Child welfare, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Children's Studies, Society & social sciences / Charities, voluntary services & philanthropy, Society & social sciences / Child welfare


Recent debates surrounding children in State care, parental rights, and abuse in Ireland's industrial schools, concern issues that are rooted in the historical record. By examining the social problems addressed by philanthropists and child protection workers from the nineteenth century, we can begin to understand more about the treatment of children and the family today. In Ireland, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) was the principle organisation involved in investigating families and protecting children. The 'cruelty men', as NSPCC inspectors were known, acted as child protection workers and 'children's police'. This book looks at their history as well as the history of Ireland's industrial schools, poverty in Irish families, changing ideas around childhood and parenthood and the lives of children in Ireland from 1838 to 1970. It is a history filled with stories of real families, families often at the mercy of the State, the Catholic Church and voluntary organisations. It is a must-read for all with an interest in the Irish family and Irish childhood past and present.


"[the book] ..forms an important part of the growing body of work on child welfare in Ireland"
(Caitriona Crowe; Irish Times, March 2014)


1. The Origins of Child Welfare in Ireland, 1889-1952
2. The NSPCC in Ireland, 1889-1921
3. The NSPCC 'in transition', 1922-56
4. Institutionalisation, the State and the NSPCC
5. Incest and Immorality
6. Gender, Familial Problems and the NSPCC


Sarah-Anne Buckley is Lecturer in History in the National University of Ireland, Galway

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