The question of how property rights were allocated in 19th Century British-occupied Ireland was a hot topic in Victorian literature and political theory. Did ownership of the land rightfully belong to the Irish, who lived on and worked it, or to the often absentee British lords who were granted rights to the land through the British political system?
Victorian novelist Maria Edgeworth tackles the subject directly in The Absentee, but themes relating to property rights also play out in novels by Anthony Trollope, George Moore, and George Meredith, as well as in the political theories of John Stuart Mill, Henry Sumner Maine, and William Gladstone. In The Dispossessed State, Maurer examines how the narratives of ownership that unfolded in the debates surrounding the Irish question influenced Victorian literature and political theory.
Full Disclosure: Michael and I both went to college with Sara Maurer and I later worked with her in a start-up tech company in Houston, Texas, before she became a well-respected college professor. That said, given my obsession with all things Victorian literature and/or history related, there’s every chance this book would be on top of my Valentine’s Day wish list even if I didn’t know firsthand how smart, funny, and talented a writer the author is.