Saturday, October 16, 2010

History In A Word: boycott

Named for Captain Charles C. Boycott, land agent in charge of rent collection and evictions on the estate of absentee landlord Lord Erne in County Mayo, Ireland.  On September 24, 1880, none of his workmen reported for work, and when he went to town to find out why, no one would give him a word or even a glance.  Boycott had refused to lower rents or cease evictions of tenants despite an agricultural crisis of poor harvests.  Tenants were encouraged by Charles Parnell who had recently advocated "isolating [the landlord]...as if he were a leper of old..."  A thousand British troops were brought in to guard the fifty Protestant Orangemen who harvested Boycott's crops that fall.  Boycott took the hint and moved back to England, but his fame lives on as the ultimate cold shoulder.