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BUU44630 Economic Policy and Business History

(20 ECTS)


Prof. Frank Barry 

Phone: 896 2311 


Office Hours: TBA

Module Content/Outline

This course provides students with a broad overview (i) of the business history of Ireland since independence in 1922 to the establishment of the Single European Market in 1992, and (ii) of the economic policies, technological developments and world conditions that drove developments in Irish business.

Students will be allocated a particular business sector on which they will write a major research project analysing the characteristics and evolution of the sector, with a particular focus on the leading firms.  The research this year will be concentrated on the performance of Irish manufacturing industry over the period from Ireland’s accession to the EEC (now the EU) in 1973 to the establishment of the Single European Market in 1992. Students will have some choice over the sectors on which their research will be conducted. (Some may have a particular interest for example in how the traditional agricultural co-operatives became some of the major Irish Multinational Corporations of today.  Others may prefer to focus on the emergence of the foreign-owned pharmaceutical or ICT sectors, etc.).

  • Topics to be explored will include:
    • How did Ireland’s long-established domestic firms perform over the period? (Many of these, across a broad range of sectors, would have been wiped out).
    • How did the foreign firms that had entered the Irish market in the protectionist era perform? (Again, many would have been wiped out, but some would have changed strategy and become more export-oriented, increasing their chances of survival).
    • How did the new export-oriented foreign firms that had entered the Irish market since the corporation tax concessions of the 1950s (and the Shannon Development scheme) perform?  (Some would have remained, while others would have been wiped out).
    •  To what extent was employment growth over the period due to the emergence of new domestic and foreign-owned firms?
    • How did EU membership and developments at the global level affect these various patterns?

A student might imagine that these questions could be easily answered by simply identifying the appropriate publications or even via Google.  This would be incorrect!  By engaging in the research, the student will discover that much more innovative detective skills are required.

Learning and Teaching Approach

The analytical background will be provided in lectures, where the leading manufacturing firms in operation at various stages of Ireland’s economic and business history will be identified. The characteristics of the market-leading firms will also be explored, as will the national and international developments that led to these outcomes. 

Students will learn, through hands-on experience, how to identify the leading firms within each sector and to trace their origins and what became of the firms.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to: 

• Identify the key national and international developments that impact on the evolution of particular sectors and firms 

• Analyse how different economic policies impact on the evolution of firms and industries 

• Analyse how different firms maximise the benefits or minimise the costs of changes in economic policy and technology and in the legal, political, national and global economic environments. 

• Communicate key facts and theoretical contributions succinctly and with precision.

Recommended Texts/Key Reading

Required core course textbook: None

General Supplemental Readings

Readings pertaining to the lectures will be posted on the class website.

Readings specific to the research project will depend on the sub-sector to be investigated.  The relevant material will be unearthed by the students themselves with the assistance of the course lecturer. 

Student preparation for the module

For those who desire it, background material on the broad economic history of Ireland is contained in:

  • K. Kennedy, T. Giblin and D. McHugh (1988) The Economic Development of Ireland in the Twentieth Century
  • C. Ó Gráda (1997) A Rocky Road: The Irish Economy Since the 1920s
  • A. Bielenberg and R. Ryan (2013) An Economic History of Ireland Since Independence


Sixty five percent of the course mark will be awarded for the major research project and the remaining 35 percent will be awarded for in-class tests at the end of each teaching term and for minor submissions required throughout the academic year. (The major research project will be due for submission at the end of the teaching year, circa 25 April 2021, which will leave students free from that time to focus their full attention on their other courses).