The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849
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|The Great Hunger|
|Subject(s)||The Great Famine in Ireland, 1845–1849|
|Publisher||Harper and Row|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
The Great Hunger is a book written in 1962 by British historian Cecil Woodham-Smith (1896-1977) about the Great Famine in Ireland in 1845-1849. It was published by Harper and Row and Penguin Books, and it consists of eighteen chapters in both editions.
Woodham-Smith, who was ethnically Irish, takes a stance against the British government of the day saying it did not do enough to stop the famine. She also, in the first chapter, lays out the historical background as a prelude to the famine and says that many of the things the English, and later the British, did from the sixteenth century onwards, such as the plantations of Ireland by English and Scottish Protestants, the dispossession of the Gaelic Catholic aristocracy, the Penal Laws depriving Catholics of most of their rights, and the Act of Union of 1800 which incorporated the nominally independent kingdom of Ireland into the newly formed United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and ended Irish ability to put tariffs on British goods, and according to Woodham-Smith was passed with the aim not of helping Ireland but helping the British to control it more, created the economic conditions which caused the famine to take place, although she mentions the penal laws had been repealed in 1829, prior to the famine. In addition in the first chapter she describes the circumstances that created the famine, and mentions the exclusive dependence of the population on the potato as one. Another she mentions is the population explosion in Ireland.
She particularly criticizes Sir Charles Edward Trevelyan, who as assistant secretary to Her Majesty's Treasury was primarily responsible for the British government's relief efforts in Ireland during the potato famine, for his mishandling of the disaster. She says that one of the reasons the British government did not help the Irish people sufficiently during the famine was because of its laissez-faire economic policy, which means a doctrine of governmental non-interference in the economy, and points out that the Corn Laws were repealed during the beginning of the famine with the result that British merchants no longer needed to trade with Ireland as much, therefore hurting the Irish economy.
She concludes "The conduct of the British government during the famine is divided into two periods. During the first... the government behaved with considerable generosity" but that "during the second period...the behavior of the British government is difficult to defend". Its negligence, according to her, was due partially to their bigotry against the Irish, but she also acknowledges that it was part of a more general problem in British society where the government was not terribly concerned about the lower class, whether British or Irish. Woodham-Smith does, however, praise Victoria, the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland at the time, for visiting Ireland during the famine and thus raising the morale of the Irish people and for giving money to famine relief efforts.
- Woodham-Smith, Cecil The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849, New York and Evanston: Harper and Row, 1962, pages 15-37.
- Woodham-Smith, Cecil The Great Hunger: Ireland: 1845-1849 pages 407-413
- Kinealy, Christine A Death Dealing Famine: The Great Hunger in Ireland, Pluto Press 1997, page 156
- Woodham-Smith, Cecil The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849 Harper and Row New York 1962
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