|Capt. Boycott's caricature from Vanity Fair, January 1881|
Verb & noun. b- and obsolete B-. Late 19th century.
[Capt. C. C. Boycott (1832-97), land-agent in Ireland who was so treated in 1880.]
A verb trans. Combine to coerce or punish (a person, group, nation, etc.)
by a systematic refusal of normal commercial or social relations;
refuse to handle or buy (goods), refuse to attend (a meeting, lecture, etc.), with this aim. L19
B noun. Such a course of action. L19
Also: boycotter noun. L19
Poor old Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott, an English land-agent operating in Co. Mayo, Ireland, in the employ of absentee landlord Lord Ernie (who may have been a muppet, but was no relation to Ernie of Sesame Street fame). Not only does history record Boycott as being a bit of a git, the comeuppance wrought upon him has been preserved for all posterity with his very name - the English verb and noun boycott.
Due to a poor harvest in 1880, a dispute over rent reduction arose between Lord Erne and his tenants, resulting in Captain Boycott attempting to evict eleven tenants from the land. Irish politician and land reformer Charles Stewart Parnell had previously given a speech espousing a form of non-violent protest in which those that occupy land vacated through eviction should be socially and economically ostracised. Although Parnell's speech wasn't specifically directed toward land-agents, this tactic was first applied against Captain Boycott - after the attempted evictions his labourers refused to work on his land, local businesses would not serve him and even his mail ceased to be delivered. As he was unable to reap his own crops, fifty Orange volunteers travelled from Co. Cavan and Monaghan to assist with the harvest, escorted by over one thousand police and soldiers. The cost of this exercise far exceeded the value of the yield, and Boycott's name quickly became famous across Britain and Ireland. By the end of December 1880, Boycott and his family had left Ireland, boycott had entered the common vocabulary, and this powerful economic and social weapon was being used across Ireland by aggrieved tenants.
|Beijing 2008 received boycott calls for a variety of issues|
(image by 8Jin Design)
Have you ever taken part in a boycott?
Are there any companies that you won't buy from out of principle?
Please don't boycott your comments from the box below.