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Feast and Famine: A History of Food and Nutrition in Ireland 1500-1920 Hardcover – February 7, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0198227519 ISBN-10: 0198227515

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (February 7, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198227515
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198227519
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.2 x 6.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,596,642 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Clarkson and Crawford deserve to be congratulated on putting famine into perspective as part of the dietary history of Ireland."--Albion

"This book rescues food and nutrition from what the authors call the basement of history... the study of history with food and drink omitted is incomplete history, and this book is an important demonstration of that maxim."--Europe: Early Modern and Modern

About the Author

Leslie Clarkson is a Professor Emeritus of Social History, The Queen's University of Belfast. Margaret Crawford is a Senior Research Fellow, The Queen's University of Belfast.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By John L Murphy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This accessible, but academically grounded survey covers four centuries of patterns in eating and drinking. Although alcohol and potatoes receive their expected due, Leslie A. Clarkson and E. Margaret Crawford remind us, by careful documentation, that indulgence in both is often exaggerated in the dietary record as opposed to popular assumptions. The potato came in slowly, only after 1750 becoming the staple for poorer people that led, a century later, to the most devastating of a series of famines.

The authors note how a third of the Irish (who in turn as largely agricultural workers supplied two-thirds of Irish production for export more than home use of many foodstuffs) relied on the spud at its height. Claims of a dozen pounds-plus of potatoes feeding a man, or pounds of stirabout, appear inflated, however, as the writers show when analyzing workhouse records of the 19c. Post-Famine, fewer potatoes were found on the everyday table.

Before the Great Famine, the lowest-third of the Irish population turned to potatoes for primary sustenance, while the other ranks became, as with the English, more varied in diet thanks to imperial trade. Not only sugar and tea but meat and milk could be found often. Brandy, sugar, coffee, rice, fruit and vegetables might be found along with wheaten bread, for example.

After the Famine, Irish patterns for all returned to the norm--which was not a state of prolonged deprivation at meals. Clarkson and Crawford show that Ireland lacked a "famine-prone history." Rather, the scholars counter that most of the time, everyone was "nutritionally well provided for." (280)

This may surprise some raised on patriotic accounts of mass hunger and endless poverty.
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