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Great Hunger: Ireland, 1845-49 Paperback – February 5, 1970

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 429 pages
  • Publisher: New Eng. Lib.; New impression edition (February 5, 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0450000133
  • ISBN-13: 978-0450000133
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 4.3 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,497,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Paul B. Kern on September 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Cecil Woodham-Smith's judicious account of the potato famine in Ireland contrasts sharply with the angry tone of Thomas Gallagher's Paddy's Lament. Nevertheless, the two books complement each other very well. Although Woodham-Smith does not neglect the suffering of the Irish people, the main focus of her book is on the British government's response to the famine. She shows how the British administration was constrained by a narrow laissez-faire ideology and an inadequate administrative structure in Ireland, especially in the remote western counties. Although she never oversimplifies, Woodham-Smith patiently compiles a devastating indictment of British policy in Ireland. The main strength of Gallagher's book is his vivid description of life during the famine. He occasionally drifts into fictional methods in order to make his story more personal and immediate. Woodham-Smith is the better historian, but Gallagher packs a larger emotional punch.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Phillip Kay on May 29, 2010
Format: Paperback
How equipped are our governments to deal with emergencies? Supposing a worldwide epidemic, which many scientists forecast, or even a tornado, were to strike, would there be an effective support system with adequate funds to spring immediately into action? Do we want this to happen? Have we learnt anything from the past?

Cecil Woodham-Smith wrote a book in 1962 called The Great Hunger which implicitly asks these question. She had shown how slow the British Government was to learn from the mistakes made in the Irish famine in her book The Reason Why (1953), which details how administrative failure and ignorant leadership were able to destroy the British Army in the Crimea in the 1850s without the Russians having much to do with it. In The Great Hunger Woodham-Smith shows how doctrinaire adherence to laissez faire economic theory, ignorance of conditions in Ireland, hatred of the Irish and unchecked colonialism applied to what was officially part of Britain led to the deaths of more than four million men, women and children in Ireland, and the emigration of two or three million more, many of whom died on their journey, in the period 1845-49. (A note about figures: everything is ambiguous, none more so than statistics. A census of Ireland in the nineteenth century was impossible. Many districts could not be reached because of inadequate roads. The poor were often not counted. During the famine records could not be kept because of administrative breakdown. It is not known accurately what the population of Ireland was at the time of the famine, nor is it known how many died. Stick to official estimates if you want to downplay the tragedy, double those figures if you want to exaggerate it).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bill Wynne on October 6, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While my wife and I were in Ireland recently this book was recommended by our Irish tour guide/bus driver as being the best on the subject of the Irish famine of 1845-1849. I have no basis of comparison but I am certainly inclined to believe him. Everyone of Irish descent wherever they may live should read this book.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By The Mysterious Traveler on April 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
THE GREAT HUNGER by Cecil Woodham-Smith.

The extremely detailed and probably definitive story of the tragic and catastrophic Irish potato famines of 1846-9. The author--while critical of the British govt, puts paid to the Irish black legend that the famine was a planned genocide perpetrated by Great Britain. The famine was rather a series of disasters that happened all within a short period of time. The Irish land policies, an extremely bad winter and damp summer, the ignorance of the Irish peasant in regards to agriculture and his dependence on a single food, the fact that the potato blight struck Europe who then proceeded to outbid England for food imports from America, a plague striking all coupled with the two great disasters--the final nails in the coffin--- that made the tragedy a foregone conclusion.
Liberals seized power in England and then in Ireland.
In the first year of the famine, the Tories under Robert Peel sent relief to Ireland and no one perished but the following year the Liberals under Sir John Russell got in and decided the famine would be a SMASHING time to implement societal reform and change using the famine as the impetus to force the Irish to live as they wanted them to. And a million Irish died of starvation and disease. Another two million immigrated to America.
And then in Ireland--a radical group of atheistic Irishmen broke away from the peaceful Christian party called Old Ireland and calling themselves Young Ireland tried to bring about a rising against the British. Incompetent and not taking into consideration that the populace was starving, all the radicals managed to do was alienate the British who had been sending relief to Ireland privately and who promptly closed up shop and left the ungrateful Irish--in their view--to shift for themselves. More suffering and death followed.......................
Sad story. Good book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was delivered quickly and in good condition. Being Irish by birth, I was intrigued to learn some facts about the famine that I had never known before. The common feeling has been that the British totally ignored the plight of the Irish people and this book reveals that not to be true. Some Irish landowners were more indifferent than were the British government and were directly responsible for famine and profiteering during the hunger years. May God forgive them.
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