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The Famine Ships: The Irish Exodus to America Hardcover – March, 1997


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 250 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co; 1st American ed edition (March 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805053131
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805053135
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #989,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

The defining moments of Irish history are studded with arrivals (St. Patrick, Oliver Cromwell) and departures (St. Columbanus, James Joyce). In the 1840s the great arrival was the Potato Blight, and the even greater departure was the multitude of ships carrying the nearly one million emigrants escaping the Irish famine to America. In this work, Laxton, a former newspaper editor, narrates the stories of these emigrants as they sailed for the the New World. The work is a fascinating compilation derived from family histories handed down through the generations; it describes both the horrible conditions aboard the ships and the emigrants' boundless optimism concerning the freedom of America. This well-written supplement to the various works on the Irish famine exodus finally draws attention to the people and the ships that defined a moment in Irish and American history.?John J. Doherty, Montana State Univ., Bozeman
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

For Mr. Laxton, a journalist of Irish descent, compiling the chronicles of horrific shipwrecks, unlikely rescue dramas and the specifications of the emigrant ships was obviously a labour of love.... But although his enthusiasm for the subject is undoubted, Mr. Laxton's method is haphazard and his handling of the context sketchy. -- The Economist

More About the Author

Edward Laxton is a veteran Fleet Street reporter who learned his trade before mobile phones were invented and the phrase hacking belonged to folks who rode horses in their leisure.
He was a reporter and news editor on The Daily Express and The Daily Mirror in the hey-days and great days of National newspapers in Britain.
His first book "Busted" was the true-life story of a hippie-detective who lived undercover on the drugs scene in and around Oxford. His second "The Famine Ships" told the harrowing tales of the starving Irish emigrants in the 1840s, and their passage to America.
Trying his hand at non-fiction, the story behind "Doyle's Orchard" comes to life using his experience as an investigative journalist.

Customer Reviews

And there is no further explanation or clarification given.
Tom Bruce
Anyone interested in their family history, the treatment of the Irish by the English Crown and the resultant holacaust called the Great Famine, should study this book.
Robert Emmet Keating (RobKea@AOL.Com
This book is well written and is an outstanding account of sea travel during the period.
Richard Keith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Tom Bruce on February 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This may be the most disorganized book I have ever read, and it contains numerous factual errors to boot, a kiss of death for a supposed history book. The vignettes come at you with no apparent thought about how one inter-relates with another. It is just a jumbled mess of repetitious incidents randomly presented. A simple solution would have been to build each chapter around a port of emigration. As for factual errors, how about the Titanic sailing on its maiden voyage from New York City. Or, on one page you are told a ship sank but most of its 200 passengers survived. On the next page you are told that most died. And there is no further explanation or clarification given. Dates of events are given as one year in the book, and pages later as another year. The book is published by reputable Henry Holt. Boy, they were totally asleep on this one. Even if there are some interesting facts given, how can you trust them in the face of all the errors. If you like watching movies to find the mistakes - like Plan 9 From Outer Space -- then this book is for you. All other potential readers, beware.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on July 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I make no apologies for the structural defects of this book, nor do I mean to suggest they should be ignored. They deserve criticism. Grammatical errors and poor editing are never welcome, however with History a factual mistake or contradiction is at best never acceptable, and at its worst can cause credibility to be questioned. I still recommend this book as the errors do not negate the events that took place, and as frustrating as they may be, they do not detract from the horror that was The Famine, nor the conduct of those involved. That the book did not gain a wider audience, possibly because of these faults is sad.
Ireland has been fertile ground for reprehensible behavior by England for over 700 years. Ireland too, at times has committed acts of violence via a variety of Catholic and Protestant groups. The dead, wounded, and the mutilated are all that either side has gained. The hatred exists to this day, and while violence has been calmer of late, a great period of time must pass before memories fade and forgiveness is accepted for apologies offered.
Prior to the ships in this book becoming "Famine Ships" many plied another trade as "Slave Ships", it is true that there were structural changes made, but beyond a certain point conditions become inhuman, period. The Potato Blight is often the only, or the primary reason given for the mass immigration that devastated the island. The truth is always more complex, it is no different here.
While starvation was rampant the food that was available, food grown right there next to those that were starving was exported to England. The English Landowners often paid for the cost of passage on these ships where so many died. These ships did carry the victims of Famine like they had carried the victims of slavery before.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Robert Emmet Keating (RobKea@AOL.Com on January 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Anyone interested in their family history, the treatment of the Irish by the English Crown and the resultant holacaust called the Great Famine, should study this book. Well-documented and well-illustrated, it provides the history of the circumstances leading to the famine, the exodus and the horrors suffered by the emigres -- not only in their homeland, but aboard the ships. For someone researching Irish family names, this is the book to read, if for no other reason than to provide excellent background information and conditions of daily life.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
Written in a pedestrian style it meanders from one point to another making difficult reading. The book lacks progression; points are presented without foundation or connection to any proceeding or subsequent text. In a final analysis it reads like a middle-schooler's book report: occasion fact smothered in disconnected filler. The combination results in the trivialization of the book's message.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
The "Famine Ships" is not a scholarly work on an important time in Irish and American History. Readers interested in fairly light, shallow treatment of the subject may enjoy the book. Readers interested in in-depth treatment of the subject should look elsewhere. As noted by other reviewers, there are technical problems with the book including poor copy editing and some writing problems. It is about one-draft away from being a better book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 1997
Format: Hardcover
The author has clearly done great research. The primary sources he has used allow him to present a very compelling story. Unfortunately, it appears that he published his first draft: full of typos, grammatical errors and contradictory statements. Too bad, because the content suffers from the complete lack of copy editing and ultimately it is an unsatisfactory read, no matter how good the material and how arduous the research
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
In researching my Irish ancestry I came upon this book. It is a completely amazing tale of the millions of Irish and their journey to America. I believe that anyone who is Irish should read this book. If this does not lead to an apology from the guilty party I don't know what will.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Catherine F. Barnard on August 30, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Interesting history/topic but very, very dryly written with much redundancy and minute details that distract from the history. There is a tendency to go back and forth from one period to another and not stay on task chronologically, which I found distracting. Some of the writing itself seemed immature with a lot of of trite phrasing (i.e., "watery grave" over and over) with an attempt to be profound; there were times when I felt I was reading someone's Master's thesis or doctoral dissertation, rather than an historic book written for the general public. It was so dry and laborious that I finally stopped reading it about three-quarters of the way through and picked up two other books to read. I would have liked much more detail about the famine itself and its impact on the families and/or details of the poorhouses from which many of the emigrants came and specifically what they were escaping. The destitution and impact of the famine wasn't detailed enough nor were the actual shipboard situations; the details involved the shipping companies and such, with only cursory details of the actual events on board, etc. Obviously, I was very disappointed in this book.
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