a1 Department of Economics, Yale University, Box 208269, New Haven, CT 06520-8269.
a2 Department of Economics, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027.
Tenant-right, or a tenant's right to sell his holding, was one of the most puzzling institutions of nineteenth-century Irish land tenure. Historians have argued that the institution reflects the tenants' assertions of a proprietary interest in the land, an assertion often backed up by threats and violence. In this article we argue that landlords respected tenant-right because they could profit from the instistution. Our model reflects comments by contemporaries and explains that tenant-right functioned as a bond aganist nonpayment of rent and was part of a rational landlord's income-maximizing strategy.