Newenham, Thomas (1762–1831), economist and politician, was born 2 March 1762 at Coolmore House, Co. Cork, second son of Thomas Newenham, landowner, and his second wife, Elizabeth (née Dawson); his uncle was Sir Edward Newenham (qv). Educated locally, he entered TCD in 1778, graduating BA (1782). Following this he moved to London and entered Middle Temple, but he was not called to the bar. Returning to Co. Cork he obtained a commission as a major in the North Cork County Militia and later claimed to have been stationed in Co. Mayo, possibly during the 1798 rebellion.
Deciding on a career in politics, he entered parliament and was returned as MP for Clonmel borough, Co. Tipperary (1797). Representing this constituency until February 1800, he was a steadfast opponent of the proposed legislative union, despite the Castle's belief at the start of 1799 that he might support it. Although he was a committed proponent of catholic emancipation, he viewed the period of legislative independence as the peak time for Irish economic prosperity and opposed the union on this ground. He did not remain in parliament to see the passing of the union in 1800, and was one of the many members who vacated their seats in the first half of the year; he accepted the escheatorship of Munster on 13 February and was replaced by John Dennis on 24 February.
Moving to England in 1800, he turned his mind to economic matters, writing an important demographic study in 1804 entitled A statistical and historical inquiry into the progress and magnitude of the population of Ireland which was published the following year. This was a significant work, which argued that the population of Ireland had been underestimated by British economists. Newenham also wrote many arguments in favour of emancipation such as An obstacle to the ambition of France (1803) and A letter to the Roman Catholics of Ireland (1823). Although he was hampered by a terrible writing style, there is little doubt about the quality of some of his research. A view of the natural, political and commercial circumstances of Ireland (1809) contained a useful mixture of geographical, historical, and statistical material which was collected to prove his thesis that Britain was incapable of governing Ireland, and that the union had failed. Reviewing the book, Thomas Malthus was critical of some of the data, and it was not well received in England. In 1824 Newenham was called before a select committee of the house of lords on the state of Ireland but he was too ill to give evidence; instead he submitted a paper which was published the following year.
He died 30 October 1831 at his home at Paragon Terrace, Cheltenham, after having been knocked down by a reckless horseman. He married (24 April 1783) Mary Anne Hoare from Co. Cork; they had two sons and a daughter. In an assessment (1981) of his work it has been commented that ‘much of what he wrote was confused, even contradictory, that is not to say he may be ignored’ (Gribbon, 246).