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

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  451 ratings  ·  60 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 in what came to be known as Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger. Waves of hungry peasants fled across the Atlantic to the United States, with so many dying en route that it ...more
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Published August 29th 2017 by Tantor Audio (first published November 27th 2012)
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3.96  · 
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 ·  451 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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Bill  Kerwin
Dec 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Colleen Browne
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Coogan has given Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) the best treatment I have read. There is a myriad of books on the "famine," but I rate this book as 5 stars because in the typical fashion of Coogan, he is unafraid to state the obvious. That is, that what occurred during those years in Ireland was genocide. If you want a complete and detailed picture, Cecil Woodham-Smith's, "The Great Hunger" is the best I have read. However, her conclusions, like those of most books on the subject, skirt the truth ...more
David Eppenstein
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
Christina Gagliano
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 governmen ...more
Kressel Housman
There's a phrase that appears throughout this book that sums up its thesis: "G-d sent the [potato] blight, but the British brought the famine." The book makes the case that Britain's neglect of the starving Irish was nothing short of genocide. Indeed, the descriptions of conditions in the workhouses, the place impoverished tenant farmers were evicted to en masse, reminded me of what I've read about the Nazi concentration camps with the rampant death by starvation and typhus. The only difference ...more
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
Julie Mickens
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
Steve Smits
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 ma ...more
Ilia Markov
Has a very clear point to make -- that British policy in Ireland during the Famine was one of genocide -- and is not afraid to state it at the beginning.

The book could be structured better, as it is it lacks a common story/theme to bind the narrative together.

Finally, I love the deeper point it makes -- that the pretense ideology (laissez-faire in the 1840s, Libertarianism today) can easily be used to justify horrible policies that lead to the destruction of millions.
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,
Sep 01, 2013 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 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 a ...more
Jul 17, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 08, 2015 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 us ...more
Jan 05, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 24, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tim Pat Coogan is a prolific writer on Irish history and public affairs from a nationalist perspective. I have usually enjoyed his works on The Troubles, Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, and the IRA. Why then give this current book on the Great Famine only three stars? As a recounting of this tragedy it offers no new facts; Cecil Woodham-Smith’s volume remains the definitive accounting. Coogan’s purpose here is to tie these known facts to an accusation of genocide on the part of the contemporar ...more
Robert Gelms
Oct 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Final Solution
By Bob Gelms
Tim Pat Coogan is one of Ireland’s greatest historians. His book, The Famine Plot: England's Role in Ireland's Greatest Tragedy, steps a long way toward healing the horrendous British Government attempt to deliberately kill as many Irish peasants as possible using a conjured-up potato famine as the cause of so many Irish deaths from starvation.
This book was very hard to read. It stirred up a myriad of emotions and memories of talks I had with my grandmother. I wa
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tim Pat Coogan's book on the Irish famine will enrage and prompt readers to study further. While he truly makes a case that a genocide was perpetrated on the Irish people under the pretext of hardcore laissez faire economics, what struck me are the parallels between what the British attempted in the 1840s and what many colonial powers throughout the world have done to their victims (native Americans at the hands of European and American powers; myriad African ethnic groups at the hands of Europe ...more
Not knowing much about Irish history made this book a bit difficult at times. But I had to start somewhere, and this was a good place.

Coogan introduces the players and details the politics behind the English policies that were supposed to alleviate the famine. He's an angry author and goes so far as to call the English actions genocide, which they might very well be, at least by today's UN definition.

An educational read.
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Great primary sources that reveal the ideological campaign of the English government and media to both enable and frame mass death and displacement of Irish peasants during the mid-19th century. Heartbreaking inhumanity against vulnerable humanity.
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish-history
An excellent driven thesis-based book. Coogan clearly has done extensive research and his recommendations and critiques on the historiography will definitely help me find future books to read. All in all, a must-read for those interested in the Famine or Anglo-Irish history or relations.
Brian Richards
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sobering read.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very well argued case and a very readable account
Feb 14, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned so much about the great famine in Ireland! There is so much more to it than I ever imagined. Makes me want to be a more generous and giving person.
Iain Snelling
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure that learned anything I didn't know already, but perhaps from a different perspective, focusing explicitly on the role of the English, and particularly the Government. What I do find extraordinary, having some to the history of the famine recently, is the extent of ignorance in England about it, and the way that English history is taught as a succession of wars and kings and queens. This is a social history of the time as well as an analysis of the imperial attitudes that created r ...more
Oct 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Gail Francis
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
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
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
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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.
“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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