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

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

Tim Pat Coogan / May 25, 2019

The Famine Plot England s Role in Ireland s Greatest Tragedy 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 e

  • Title: The Famine Plot: England's Role in Ireland's Greatest Tragedy
  • Author: Tim Pat Coogan
  • ISBN: 9780230109520
  • Page: 153
  • Format: Hardcover
  • 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 historianDuring 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 historian, Tim Pat Coogan, gives a fresh and comprehensive account of one of the darkest chapters in world history, arguing that Britain was in large part responsible for the extent of the national tragedy, and in fact engineered the food shortage in one of the earliest cases of ethnic cleansing So strong was anti Irish sentiment in the mainland that the English parliament referred to the famine as God s lesson Drawing on recently uncovered sources, and with the sharp eye of a seasoned historian, Coogan delivers fresh insights into the famine s causes, recounts its unspeakable events, and delves into the legacy of the famine mentality that followed immigrants across the Atlantic to the shores of the United States and had lasting effects on the population left behind This is a broad, magisterial history of a tragedy that shook the nineteenth century and still impacts the worldwide Irish diaspora of nearly 80 million people today.

    Famine A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including war, inflation, crop failure, population imbalance, or government policies.This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.Every inhabited continent in the world has experienced a period of famine throughout history. Great Famine Ireland The Great Famine Irish an Gorta Mr, an g t a m o , or the Great Hunger, was a period in Ireland between and of mass starvation, disease, and emigration With the most severely affected areas in the west and south of Ireland, where the Irish language was primarily spoken, the period was contemporaneously known in Irish as An Drochshaol, loosely translated as Ireland s Catastrophic Population Decline Due To Mar , This map shows the catastrophic decline in the population of Ireland during the decade from to The census taken in recorded a population of ,,, while the census counted ,,, a drop of over . million in years. The decline was mostly as a result of The Great Famine, also known as The Great Hunger, which started in and swept the country for The Great Irish Famine A Brief Overview The A depiction of a mother and children at Skibbereen during the famine By John Dorney See our other overviews here. The Great Famine was a disaster that hit Ireland between and about , causing the deaths of about million people and the flight or emigration of up to . million over the course of about six years. The Irish Potato Famine Dochara Mar , The famine was not really a famine at all Ireland, then as now, was a country capable of producing large quantities of food, and continued to do so throughout the famine years. Frank Dikotter on Mao s Great Famine Econlib econtalk Aug , Historian Frank Diktter of the University of Hong Kong and author of Mao s Great Famine talks about the book with EconTalk host Russ Roberts.Diktter chronicles the strategies Mao and the Chinese leadership implemented to increase grain and steel production in the late s leading to a collapse in agricultural output and the deaths of millions by starvation. BBC History Timelines BBC History Timelines index page Section highlights British History Timeline Explore all of British history, from the Neolithic to the present day, with this easy to use interactive timeline. Food and Famine in Victorian Literature A History of Hunger Calamitous shifts in food production and distribution, as well as a food scarcity that occurred during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, established a preoccupation with hunger and food in much of Victorian literature. Let There Be a Famine in the Land Interpreter A Journal Abstract The drought recorded in Helaman is probably the only dated, climate related event in the entire Book of Mormon that could have left a signature GREAT FAMINE OF MAOIST ERA CHINA MASS STARVATION, GREAT FAMINE OF CHINA DURING THE GREAT LEAP FORWARD A Great Famine occurred in and For two decades the Chinese government maintained that between and million died as a result of drought and bad weather during that time.

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    About "Tim Pat Coogan"

      • Tim Pat Coogan

        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 amon de Valera.


    641 Comments

    1. 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 [...]


    2. 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 [...]


    3. 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 [...]


    4. 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 [...]


    5. 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 int [...]


    6. 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 [...]


    7. 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 [...]


    8. 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 [...]


    9. 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 [...]


    10. 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, [...]


    11. 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 [...]


    12. 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 [...]


    13. 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 [...]


    14. 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 [...]


    15. 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 wisethady.wordpress. 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



    16. The Final SolutionBy 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 [...]


    17. 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 [...]


    18. 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.


    19. 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 [...]


    20. 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 [...]


    21. 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 includ [...]


    22. 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 [...]


    23. 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 [...]


    24. 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 vis [...]


    25. 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 [...]


    26. *** Won as part of a 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 it was wel [...]


    27. 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 fo [...]


    28. I received this book from a giveaway on 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 politics, [...]


    29. 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.


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