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The Great Hunger: Ireland: 1845-1849
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The Great Hunger: Ireland: 1845-1849

4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  533 ratings  ·  55 reviews
The Irish potato famine of the 1840s, perhaps the most appalling event of the Victorian era, killed over a million people and drove as many more to emigrate to America. It may not have been the result of deliberate government policy, yet British ‘obtuseness, short-sightedness and ignorance’ – and stubborn commitment to laissez-faire ‘solutions’ – largely caused the disaste ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published September 1st 1992 by Penguin Books (first published 1962)
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A fine introduction to one of the great disasters of the modern world--- the Irish Famine of the mid and late 1840s. Woodham-Smith tells the tale with both compassion for a land where perhaps a quarter of the population was destitute even in good years and with a subtle, icy coldness for the administrators in London who refused to take any of the steps that seem so obvious today. (Yes, I'm New Orleans-born, and my thought while reading "The Great Hunger" was that the relief efforts undertaken in ...more
This is an older history of the famine (first published 1962), a good example of well-written general history. Its subject is, of course, thoroughly horrifying. What struck me as I read was how much history repeats itself and how little some learn from it. The Irish died not really because of the potato blight but because of insanely stupid laws governing land ownership and tenancy that were set up to benefit a tiny few and to exploit and degrade the many and were subsequently defended, even at ...more
I picked this book up at a time when I am researching my family history and at the moment in particular my 3 x great grandparents Hugh and Catherine who came from Roscommon, Ireland, to England in 1852. They would have been teenagers at the time of the great famine.. Having read the book, I'm surprised they or anyone else lived to emigrate. I know my ancestors were humble people who couldn't read or write, and I really wonder how they survived, and how many of their families perished.
It's easy h
Oct 07, 2012 Suzanne rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: serious students of European history
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Well , that wasn’t pretty. Well-researched, informative, and educational, but definitely not pretty.

I’d always wondered how the Irish potato famine happened, how a country could depend so heavily on one crop, one food source so completely, that its failure could have the kind of devastating effect this one did. The Great Hunger explains the perfect storm of conditions and forces that resulted in starvation for millions of people, emigration for hundreds of thousands more. At the time, all of Ir
This is the best book I have ever read in my life. It is extraordinarily informative, gripping and horrifying. The catastrophe developed after centuries of colonialism, where the bountiful agricultural resources were extracted from Ireland while the Irish people were reduced to barely subsistence level lives: diet of one staple (in spite of the variety of exports they raised), starvation every year before the potato crop was ready, work to pay rent with hardly any currency exchanged, education a ...more
After reading this book I'm amazed my Irish ancestors survived long enough to be able to emigrate to England and for that I am truly thankful or I wouldn't be here to write this review. Truly harrowing in it's detail of the sufferings of the Irish people and what we now see as their callous treatment by the British government. I also hadn't realised that famine was a regular occurence in Ireland because of their reliance on the potato, although in this case it went way beyond anything that had e ...more
Mark O'hagan
It was only after visiting the Famine museum in Strokestown House that I felt compelled to investigate the full story of the famine. This book is an outstanding piece of research into Ireland's darkest hour and should be considered as essential reading for every student of Irish history
'Is Britain’s cover-up of its 1845-1850 holocaust in Ireland the most successful Big Lie in all of history?

The cover-up is accomplished by the same British terrorism and bribery that perpetrated the genocide.
Consider: why does Irish President Mary Robinson call it “Ireland’s greatest natural disaster” while she conceals the British army’s role?

Potato blight, “phytophthora infestans”, did spread from America to Europe in 1844, to England and then Ireland in 1845 but it didn’t cause famine anywh
Phillip Kay
How equipped are our governments to deal with emergencies? Supposing a worldwide epidemic, which many scientists forecast, or even a tornado, were to strike, would there be an effective support system with adequate funds to spring immediately into action? Do we want this to happen? Have we learnt anything from the past?

Cecil Woodham-Smith wrote a book in 1962 called The Great Hunger which implicitly asks these question. She had shown how slow the British Government was to learn from the mistakes
This is excellent, a really comprehensive account of the famine. The digression about the life of the Irish emigrants in New York is too long, but on the other hand there's a good explanation of contemporary theories about the cause of the potato blight, and of the discovery of the real cause in the 20th century.
Matthew Bartlett
A heart breaking, step by step retelling of how the Great Famine afflicted Ireland, causing a mass exodus by the population. It reveals a poor response to the famine as well as what diseases resulted and what happened to many who tried to flee and survive.
Katy Walters
This is such a heartbreaking and emotional read. It is also full of history, politics of the time and an indepth soul searching account of the suffering of the Irish people.It is a book that I keep close as my family suffered in that period.
Timothy Riley
I had always wanted to know more about this sad topic. One of the things I learned was how complicated it all was. Lots of people unilaterally blame the british, but it was more complicated than that. It as caused by centuries of british repression that caused huge land ownership problems and dependence on one crop because the people were so poor and treated so badly by the landlords who were mostly british or scottish protestants. Trevelyan was the biggest bastard of all the british bureaucrats ...more
Mark Oconnor
An amazing account of the events from 1845-1849 of the Irish Famine. The amount of correspondence that survived from that era is impressive, and the author is very thorough at establishing the conditions immediately preceding the famine that provided the perfect storm for this tragedy. Trevelyan comes out as the chief villain for his utter callousness towards the Irish, with his lieutenant Charles Woods coming in at a close second during the second half of the book. The author also spends a grea ...more
People interested in immigration issues should read this book.
I knew of the Irish Famine, I had no idea 2 million people disappeared.
So many Irish people were lost, went to Canada and poured over the borders to America.
England did not handle this famine well at all, even though there were scientists who knew about the problem and how to solve it.
I learned so much about what does not work as immigration policies.
A terrible but good book. About the patato-famine in Ireland. The book explains how it could happen and what the awful consequences were. A great part is about politics, that part was hard for me to understand (probably because in general I am not interested in politics). But the other part was about the irish people and how they lived in the country. This part is terrible, because people were so poor they only possessed a pig and a dungheap and patatoes. Even before the famine many people did l ...more
I've had this book on my shelves for too many years now but for some reason decided to take it on hols to Ireland in October. For a serious work on a tragic period in Irish history, it was a very accessible read. What was fascinating for me was that the reasons for what happened during 45-49 were many and complex - far more subtle in some cases than simply a failure of the potato crop and cruelty by UK politicians. But the consequences of a failure of nature and of people who should care was bre ...more
Nicolai Soriano
A very good book, not dry at all. I'd have preferred a bit more analysis about the effects that the famine conditions had on present-day Ireland (or at least present day at the time that the book was published), but that's a minor thing. Quite fascinating overall.
It was the worst of all possible worlds. The potato crop, the mainstay for th e Irish underclass, fails not once but repeatedly. The English are hobbled by their antipathy for the Irish and their devotion to unvarnished capitalism and millions die and millions emigrate at a time when the Ireland is actually producing a surplus of food that is exported the England. Any possibility of a continuation of unification with England is extinquished by this four year period and its aftermath even though ...more
This really explained the Irish Potato famine. What led up to it and the British response to it. I never knew the politics and political structure behind it and how that exacerbated the situation there.

I was always curious about why the Irish were always so hated in America around the turn of the century. Many of the Irish were shipped to America with disease and were the illiterate poor that were "kicked to the curb" by being offered free passage to American and Canada. There they were held in
William Dearth
Horrific is an oft overused term today but it is the perfect word to describe this extraordinary account of the Irish famine. I guarantee that it was a much more complex set of circumstances responsible than is generally known.

It explains a lot about the historic relationship of England and Ireland as well as the Irish impact on Canada and the United States.

The last 100 pages or so begins to lose some of the fervor of the 1st 350 pages, but it is a compelling and a necessary read if you wish to
Appalling. Terrifying. Calamitous.
Gabi Coatsworth
Prresent from Eileen when I was 12
Mary Ellyn Cain
This is the first book I read concerning the Great Hunger. I have to say it radicalized me, shocked me, made me very angry. For years I took it as proof of attempted wholesale slaughter of the Irish by the English. I often quoted "during the famine years enough beef and grain were exported from Ireland to feed the population 2X over," which I now know is not really true, and has many more nuances and historical facts. I recommend James S. Donnelly's The Great Irish Potato Famine, instead.
This book is a savage indictment of the British Establishment over their handling of the Great Irish Famine. Regrettably, the indictment is fully justified.
I have learned so much from this book about Ireland and it's history. A little heavy reading for me, but I like this type of book, even if it's a bit over my head at times. My eyes have been opened with regards to the misconceptions surrounding the Irish potato famine. Reading a historian's perspective is so enjoyable because you are reading a well researched historical account, and this author writes in a style that I can grasp. I would highly recommend it, really interesting!!
An informative account of tragic human suffering and a government that could have prevented a good portion of that suffering but chose not to. It's still difficult for me to grasp how deeply the Irish were despised, both at home and abroad. And this book as well as several others I've read makes me wonder if immigrants stopped thinking of America as "the land of opportunity" as soon as they hit our shores. We didn't welcome them at all!
This is one of the books I used when I was researching for my senior thesis in college. The writing style is easy to read, but the subject matter is absolutely devastating. I've read criticism that the author places too much blame on the English government, and I can certainly see where there's some bias in the writing. But it gives a pretty detailed account of the famine, and there's plenty of information that makes it worth reading.
Chas Bayfield
What a fantastic book. A real gem. I have no idea if it's still in print but it should be. It's the kind of book I looked forward to reading every day rather than one that was a chore to get through. The style is effortless, human, entertaining and clear. The research is exhaustive. What an unbelievable tragedy, and I now fully understand why many Irish hold the English in such contempt.
D.J. Kelly
Although there are more recent works on An Gorta Mor - the Irish Famine, which of course wasn't a famine per se but an induced mass starvation of a food producing nation, this book is the definitive account and one which anyone interested in the period ought to have on their bookshelf. Cecil Woodham-Smith's book is an erudite account yet is clearly written and illuminating.
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Cecil Blanche Woodham-Smith (née Fitzgerald) was a British historian and biographer. She wrote four popular history books, each dealing with a different aspect of the Victorian era.
More about Cecil Woodham-Smith...
The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade Florence Nightingale, 1820-1910 Queen Victoria, From Her Birth To The Death Of The Prince Consort The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845 1849 The Great Hunger, Ireland 1845 - 1849, the Story of the Famine of the 1840's

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