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The Famine Plot: England's Role in Ireland's Greatest Tragedy

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  269 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
During a Biblical seven years in the middle of the nineteenth century, Ireland experienced the worst disaster a nation could suffer. Fully a quarter of its citizens either perished from starvation or emigrated, with so many dying en route that it was said, "you can walk dry shod to America on their bodies." In this grand, sweeping narrative, Ireland''s best-known ...more
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published November 27th 2012 by Palgrave Macmillan
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Bill  Kerwin
Nov 24, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it liked it
Shelves: history

Tim Pat Coogan thinks Irish historians should show some spine and stop soft-pedaling British culpability for the famine. It is true that the British (through prime minister Blair) finally apologized for the famine fifteen years ago, and have striven to deal justly with the Northern counties since. It is also true that nobody--least of all the Republic of Ireland--wants to give any ammunition to the rabid fringe of the IRA. Still, Coogan would argue that it is high time Irish intellectuals stoppe
John Mcging
Jan 22, 2013 John Mcging rated it it was amazing
I'll be brief. The traditional view of the famine is easily found and read. Coogan takes a position that due to a combination of a free market political view, a concern over money and a world view rooted in a Protestant bias against Catholics that the result in dealing with the potato crop rotting was equivalent to genocide. Frankly, I agree. I don't think the bar is that high that the deeds of Trevelyn and his Whigs don't meet and exceed it.

What I find more pernicious is in reading some of the
May 12, 2015 Luthien rated it really liked it
When I picked this book up at the library, I was looking for something a bit more broad—more of a survey, really—since even as a history student in college, Irish history is rarely mentioned, much less explored in-depth. I was a bit dubious at first. Genocide? Really? While I was more than willing to believe the British government had done serious wrong by the people of Ireland, that seemed like a rather extreme argument.

But Coogan is an excellent historian; at the time, I had never been introdu
Christina Gagliano
Apr 03, 2013 Christina Gagliano rated it really liked it
I read a book about the Great Famine in Ireland to Liam's 2nd grade class right before St. Patrick's Day, figuring they all knew about leprechauns and pots of gold, and that it's high time they learned what life in Ireland was really like. One of the kids in the class asked why the British didn't do more to help the Irish, if Ireland was supposed to be part of the British Empire. An outstanding question! I answered that, while a few British people and organizations did try to help, the ...more
Elia Princess of Starfall

The Great Famine or An Gorta Mor in Irish was a time of widespread starvation, disease and emigration in Ireland with the population being effectively halved by 1851-61. In 1845, the population of Ireland stood around nine million and for the Irish poor, with there being very little employment or money available, a plot of land to grow potatoes for food was the only way to survive. The diet for the Irish poor often consisted solely of potatoes, with any extra crops or pigs sold to pay the rent,
Steve Smits
Dec 18, 2012 Steve Smits rated it liked it
Tim Pat Coogan writes of the famine mainly in terms of the policy response of the English government. His premise is that, if analyzed in light of today's sensibility, that response could be considered an act of genocide -- hence, the title "The Famine Plot". I'm not sure I completely agree that the willfulness and intent that is a requisite of genocide completely pertains here, but there's no doubt that the callous and utterly lacking reaction by England to the Irish tragedy contributed in a ...more
Apr 10, 2014 Dave rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish-history
To those with even the most casual interest in history, the basic facts regarding the Irish Potato Famine are well known. A blighted (and thereby ruined) potato crop in the 1840's led to mass starvation, disease, and emigration. Most published works on this sad period in Ireland's history rarely touch upon the circumstances that the Irish people have long held in their common memory - the role played by the British government. With "The Famine Plot", Irish historian Tim Pat Coogan sheds the kid ...more
Jun 13, 2015 Irishblue rated it it was amazing
This book shocked me to the core. As an Irishman I had always been aware of the English hatred of everything Irish. I never thought they would allow millions to die in this hatred. Charles Trevalyan was knighted by queen victoria for his role in managing famine relief. He allowed his hatred to colour all his policies. He believed the country was overpopulated and decided the famine was god's providence to punish the feckless Irish for their laziness and popery. He refused to recognise that any ...more
Feb 24, 2015 S rated it it was ok
Shelves: ireland
This book gives a pretty good overview of the Irish Famine. It's main aim though is to spell out how big a part England played in the lead up to it and how little they did to help during it. It says as much on the front cover so it shouldn't be a surprise that it's heavily critical of England and it's government of the time.

Sadly there are a lot of similarities to situations still happening around the world, the chapter about propaganda in the media in particular stood out in light of what's ha
Sep 06, 2015 Argum rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish
Deeply depressing and detailed. My history courses taught me the famine was an agricultural crisis that precipitated large numbers of Irish immigrants to America which then shaped American culture and politics. Never once did I learn that it was preventable and racist. Coogan defends the thesis that the British committed genocide and I think it is not only convincing but well documented in this book. A strong anti-Irish and anti-Catholic bias motivated decisions by the colonial power that had ...more
Jan 17, 2015 Wisethady rated it liked it
Great book by Tim Pat Coogan on the effects of the Great Famine on ordinary people - the Government and civil servants, irrespective of where they may be from or where they may be based, were, as usual, not much help and were operating to their own agenda. Partly inspired my latest blog 1501 The Big Lie - Emigration and Government Policies at Events in Ireland in 2014 shows that i am not the only one angry and upset over the events of the last few years - keep it up
Dec 28, 2012 CD rated it liked it

( Review under construction )
Oct 20, 2013 Bruce rated it it was amazing
A powerfully written book describing colonization using 'laissez faire' economics with prejudice. In "Setting the Scene" the author goes back in time to actions of Henry II and a Papal Bull approving the Norman invasion of Ireland. He continues through Queen Elizabeth I and 1798 to the early 1800s. While there was a famine in the early 1830s it was the famine of the 1840s which was used by English Whigs in an attempt to depopulate Ireland. Protestant Fundamentalists believed that the famine was ...more
David Eppenstein
Jul 07, 2015 David Eppenstein rated it really liked it
The most haunting quote cited in this book is "God brought the blight but the English brought the famine". Based on other reading I've done I have to say that England's history as a colonial power is ugly, very, very, ugly. This book merely adds to that history. It is unfortunate that while many people know there was a potato famine they know almost nothing about what really happened. This famine is to the Irish what the Holocaust is to the Jews and, proportionally, the famine was probably more ...more
Julie Mickens
Jun 10, 2016 Julie Mickens rated it really liked it
In 1845 and '46, you could call it incompetence -- a colonial government who just didn't get it. But by 1847, it was on purpose. After '47, the British government's starvation of Ireland's small farmers was willful and deliberate. (And remember that Britain WAS Ireland's government in the 1840s; Ireland was by law part of the UK.)

The Irish famine was one of the early disasters of classical liberalism, with the British rulers cloaking themselves in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations as an ideologica
Gail Francis
Apr 13, 2014 Gail Francis rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Tim Pat Coogan asserts that the famine was a case of genocide. He quotes another public figure often in saying "God caused the potato blight, England caused the famine." And he makes a pretty compelling case.

Two things in particular struck me. First, the famine was happening so close to the time that Adam Smith's theories had taken told and just prior to the ideas of Marx and Engels coming into circulation. So you had all these people in London viewing the famine in terms of waiting for the "in
Sep 06, 2012 Brian rated it liked it
Tim Pat Coogan provides an interesting look at the role played by the English government in the potato famine of the 1860’s that changed not only the course of Irish history but of the world as well with more than 1 million Irish leaving the emerald isle for Europe, Canada and the United States. While Coogan attempts to link the famine with a genocidal tragedy of Jewish plight the crux of the book rests on the idea that the British starved the Irish through free market activities. These include ...more
Mike Emett
Jan 16, 2013 Mike Emett rated it liked it
Another book won from a giveaway.

I know really nothing about the Potato Famine beyond: There was a potato famine, lots of Irish died and lots emigrated abroad. That is is really. So when reading this I went in with no real knowledge. Despite the author's writing style and use of repetition (which at times felt a bit annoying, this book is pretty well argued. The author tries to maintain a balance and to be unbiased, yet imbalance and some bias can be read. Did influential people within the Brit
Janice Salmon
Sep 06, 2015 Janice Salmon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book because of my family history and because of my great grandfather coming to Canada from Ballymoney Ireland at this time. I lived in Saint John NB, and had my own family there, and we were raised on the stories of the coffin ships and the cemeteries on the islands off shore where many of the Irish were buried. Recently I watched a TV program that dealt with the famine and the huge loss of animals at the same time due to infections, though this was not discussed in the book. I ...more
Sep 09, 2016 Kathy rated it it was amazing
A thorough and heartbreaking history of the Great Famine of Ireland. So much of the history is unbelievable yet in Coogan's account you are allowed the opportunity to read true stories retrieved from the Famine archives and begin to imagine in your own mind the horrific suffering imposed on the population of Ireland at that time. Senseless and disturbing as it all was I couldn't put this book down. It pains me to think of my ancestors who suffered this appalling treatment by the British. Yet ...more
Jan 07, 2014 Buttle rated it it was ok
Tim Pat Coogan quotes "Tory Lord Brougham" a number of times. There was never such a person. The person he quotes was Henry Brougham who was enobled on 1830 so that he could become Lord Chancellor, and he was a Whig.

Brougham is quoted on page 88 - but no specific date or source is given. I was able to discover, however, that the statement quoted was made in the House of Lords on the 23rd March, 1846. If one reads to the end of the speech Brougham made that day what one finds he ameliorated to s
*** Won as part of a Goodreads giveaway ***

I could not finish this book. I really do feel a duty to books I have won. I took this book up twice. The first time I only made it 30 pages in. The second I really pushed and pushed and made it to page 65.

The subject matter is dark of course. The title clearly states the purpose of exposing Britain's role/fault in The Famine. I knew all this going in. I did find it very tough though. A lot of facts, information, switching between ideas. I don't think i
A scholarly, yet strongly opinionated book about Britain's culpability in the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s. Author Tim Pat Coogan uses original documents of period newspapers, speeches of politicians, government documents, charity organizations and religious documentation to prove his case that the British enhanced the suffering, deaths and emigration of Irish citizens. He makes very valid points but I felt that I needed more information or a more broad outlook. This was a good start ...more
Feb 01, 2013 Courtney rated it really liked it
I received this book from a giveaway on goodreads and was excited to read it. I think it's important to note that this is a poli-sci book through and through. There's not a lot of narrative, which can make it a difficult read at times. But if you look at this for what it is, a well documented argument for the role that England played in the potato famine, it delivers just that. It delves deep into the policial leanings at the time, with the benefit of hindsight. If you have an interest in power ...more
Dec 16, 2013 Dean rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I won this book as part of a First Reads giveaway.

This is a great history of the Irish potato famine and how the history of Englands treatment of the Irish people over the years made it unlikely that any sensible action to end the famine would be taken.

Though the book can be a little repetitive at times, it gives a fresh perspective on this moment in history and the actions that led to it taking place. Definitely a book worth reading for those interested in history.
David Hockabout
Nov 09, 2015 David Hockabout rated it it was amazing
This work by famed Irish historian, Tim Pat Coogan on Grata Mor the Great Hunger. It is a starting point for recapturing the past tragedy and finding the real causes of the famine. The startling indifference, the portrait of the Irish suffering (based on Popery, racism, etc.) as simians is startling.

In a modern context, the views of the poor and minorities can be heard echoing downs the halls of the British Empire and out of the mouths of many politicians today.
Jan 04, 2013 Melody rated it really liked it
This was an accessible and engaging overview of the history and workings behind the Irish potato famine. While the premise, that England's role was that of premeditated murder on a massive scale, felt like a bit of a stretch, the book was well organized and engaging. I underlined countless bits of information. It got a little repetitive and wandering towards the end, but overall I'm thrilled with the introduction it gave me into modern Irish history and culture. I'm eager to learn more.
Kathy Mccarthy
Jul 05, 2014 Kathy Mccarthy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: completed
Excellent analysis of the Great Hunger in Ireland - or what the world has been lead to refer to as the Great Famine. How sad for the Irish that this happened. How shameful for the English for their role. Shame on the Catholic Church for not intervening. Blessings on the Chocktaw Indians and the Quakers. This book is a true education.
Nov 12, 2013 Donna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
I think that this book shows us how England prevented much help to Ireland when they were in such a terrible plight. How could this famine occurred? Why wasn't more help given? Many people died and suffered through this time period in Ireland.

I received this book through the Goodreads Giveaway and it really brought to light how much the Irish people suffered.
May 04, 2016 Nicola rated it it was amazing
Excellently portrayed capturing the political stance surrounding this unimaginable human tragedy. Maddening and infuriating a must read for those interested in the Irish story.
The famine is part of our national psyche and is something from which the aftermath is still being felt, millions dead, millions emigrated.
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Timothy Patrick Coogan is an Irish historical writer, broadcaster and newspaper columnist. He served as editor of the Irish Press newspaper from 1968 to 1987. Today, he is best known for his popular and sometimes controversial books on aspects of modern Irish history, including The IRA, Ireland Since the Rising, On the Blanket, and biographies of Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera.
More about Tim Pat Coogan...

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“John Mitchel’s famous declaration that God sent the blight but the English created the Famine.” 2 likes
“The Vulgar sham of the pompous feast Where the heaviest purse is the highest priest The organised charity, scrimped and iced In the name of a cautious, statistical Christ.”1 —John Boyle O’Reilly” 0 likes
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