The Irish Famine
Publication Date: July 1, 2002
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The Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s has been popularly perceived as a genocide attributable to the British government. In professional historical circles, however, such singular thinking was dismissed many years ago, as evidenced by the scathing academic response to Cecil Woodham-Smith's 1963 classic, The Great Hunger, which, in addition to presenting a vivid and horrifying picture of the human suffering, made strong accusations against the British government's failure to act.
And while British governmental sins of omission and commission during the famine played their part, there is a broader context of land agitation and regional influences of class conflict within Ireland that also contributed to the starvation of more than a million people.
This remarkable book opens a door to understanding all sides to this tragedy with an absorbing history provided by novelist Colm Toibin that is supported by a collection of key documents selected by historian Diarmaid Ferriter. An important piece of revisionist thinking, The Irish Famine: A Documentary is sure to become the classic primer for this lamentable period of Irish history.
Colm Tóibín is the author of four novels (The Blackwater Lightship was shortlisted for the Booker Prize) and is currently a Fellow of the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.
Diarmaid Ferriter received his Ph.D. in modern Irish history from the National University of Ireland. He is the author of two histories of Ireland and lectures at St. Patrick's College, Dublin City University.