Wednesday, September 2, 2009

On Captain C.C. Boycott

Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott was a British land agent whose ostracism by his local community in Ireland as part of a campaign for agrarian tenants' rights in 1880gave the English language the verb to boycott, originally meaning "to ostracise". Now the word boycott has come to mean to unitein abstaining from, or preventing dealings with, some economic entity, as a means of intimidation or coercion.

In 1880, as part of its campaign for the "Three Fs" (fair rent, fixity of tenure and free sale, the Irish Land League under Michael Davitt withdrew the local labour required to save the harvest on Lord Erne's estate. When Boycott tried to undermine the campaign, the League launched a campaign of isolation against him in the local community. Neighbours would not talk to him. Shops would not serve him. Local labourers refused to tend his house, and the postman refused to deliver his mail.

The campaign against Boycott became a cause célèbre in the British press, with newspapers sending correspondents to the West of Ireland to highlight what they viewed as the victimisation of a servant of a peer of the realm by Irish nationalists.

Boycott left Ireland on December 1 of the same year. His name, however, became immortalised by the creation of the verb to boycott.

No comments:

Post a Comment