October is more than the month of spooks and spirits – it is also the anniversary month of the most infamous property manager in history: Captain Charles C. Boycott. If you don’t know him, you know his name, as it has been in our lexicon ever since he was forced from his community.
After his retirement from the British Army, Boycott worked as what would now be considered a property manager, acting as the land agent on property owned by Lord Erne. He collected the rent from tenant farmers in the County Mayo area, and after a bad harvest, he was told to lower the local rent by the Land League, an organization created to reform the previous landlord system.
The Land League stated that due to the likelihood of famine, rent should be lowered by 25%. By September of 1880, tenants were late on rent, and Boycott informed them that though they demanded that 25%, Lord Erne only accepted 10% deduction. He issued requests for the late rent and began issuing eviction notices for eleven tenants.
And thus, began the downfall of Captain Charles C. Boycott as a property manager. After three of his tenants were officially notified of their evictions, a fourth refused to officially accept the notification and began to alert other tenant farmers to what was happening. They successfully stopped the notification process by running the server and constabulary into hiding by chasing him with rocks and manure.
That was not the end of it. The next day, everyone who worked for Boycott was encouraged to quit, from laborers to servants. People in town began to refuse serving him, from the postal to laundry service. When Boycott’s nephew tried to get his mail, he was stopped along the trail. It became such a mess that on October 14, 1880, Boycott wrote to The Times:
In late October, Boycott reported that he had $500 of crops that would rot underground with no one to harvest them. His tenants refused to farm and wouldn’t let others near it. By November, Boycott decided to leave Ireland, but no one would drive his family to the train station. He became a land agent instead, and remained infamous for quite some time. Luckily, no modern property manager has gained the same level of notoriety as he had.
Thanks to Captain Boycott, the idea of social ostracization began to spread as a tool to pressure those in charge to listen to the consumer. By 1888, the word was even included in dictionaries, and is now used so widely that though everyone knows what a boycott is, there is a good chance that they do not know who he was.
Who are your favorite of history?
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