This chapter highlights the two communities, Kilkenny and Belfast, that had each been shaped by a great aristocratic dynasty. It narrates the power of both families and how it drastically diminished in the early eighteenth century. Kilkenny retained its status as an inland regional capital with an old urban fabric, a Catholic business community and a weak Protestant presence. Belfast, on the other hand, was much more of a colonial town (in every sense) than Kilkenny, an international trading hub dominated by a wholesale merchant community that was overwhelmingly Presbyterian. The chapter focuses more on eighteenth-century Belfast, its general merchants trading overseas and its physical transformation. Despite the ease of navigation in Belfast Lough, the town lay too far north to attract British or European vessels destined for southern Europe, nor was it optimally placed as a transatlantic stopover. The chapter also elaborates on the transatlantic partnership of Thomas Gregg and Waddell Cunningham, which principally involved the export of Irish linen and the importation of flaxseed, grain and flour. Finally, the chapter discusses the merchant community that benefited most from the growth of the passenger trade: Derry. It also explores how Drogheda became the largest grain market in Ireland, then follows the growth of Dublin's international trade.
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