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The Great Hunger: Ireland: 1845-1849 Paperback – September 1, 1992

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Editorial Reviews

From AudioFile

Frederick Davidson reads this immensely detailed audiobook with a rich English accent. It's as if a robed Oxford don is giving a series of lectures on the Irish potato famine and its consequences. Davidson reads the myriad English and Irish names of people and places, as well as the many complicated sentences, without a stumble. The problem with this audiobook is that its very "Englishness" would likely be difficult for many American ears to listen to for 25 hours. M.L.C. © AudioFile 2000, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Group; Reissue edition edition (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014014515X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140145151
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,055 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Paul J. Ditz on November 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is by far the most complete and best written account of the Great Hunger in Ireland. Woodham-Smith sets forth in heart-wrenching detail the causes, experiences and effects of the great potato blight in the mid 1800s in Ireland. Unflinching in its indictment of the laissez-faire response of British authorities such as Trevelyan and Russell, this thorough history sheds a blinding light on a dark period in this history of this great and troubled nation. If you read only one account of the Hunger, make this the one.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Paul Harrington on January 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
One would be pressed to call "The Great Hunger" an easy read. Written in 1964, its style and dense recitation of facts can leave the reader mired in detail.
Yet through the often thick prose comes a shocking tale of human disaster on an enormous scale. The near-total reliance of the Irish on the potato leads to calamity when that crop is destroyed by blight in the mid-1840's. Beholding to their landlords (many of them absentee), virtually penniless, they are swept into a vortex of helplessness and starvation.
While local officials in Ireland realise with horror the consequences of the crop failure, government bureaucrats in London stubbornly insist it would be wrong to send massive food relief because it would undermine free enterprise.
The author quotes extensively from numerous first hand accounts which graphically describe the suffering and despair of the Irish peasantry.
The book however is not limited to the tragedy that took place in Ireland. Woodham-Smith relates how thousands of Irish, many of them ill with typhus, flee their homeland for North America. Many of the vessels are poorly equipped and provisioned, and their cargo is human misery.
One of the most appalling chapters deals with the scene at Grosse Isle, Quebec, where a small fever hospital is overrun by sick and dying immigrants. At one point in the summer of 1847, dozens of ships are moored in the St. Lawrence River, waiting to discharge their gravely-ill passengers. The line of vessels stretches several miles. The deaths number in the thousands.
This is just one of many compelling images which emerge from Woodham-Smith's history, and they more than compensate for the often complex and detailed way he presents his information.
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Tim Hare on January 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
A good book to read on the subject if you you're looking for a single text on the subject of the Irish Potato Famine. I do appreciate the technical and fact filled nature of Smith's writing. What it lacks in specific details on human suffering it makes up for with detailed accounts on the conditions and players that led to this tragedy. This book covers the political and cultural environments of the time as well as the greater effect the famine had on Ireland and the rest of the world. I came away from the book with a clearer picture of the relationship between Ireland and England, and a better understanding of the role each country (and their populations, press, government officials, landowners, farmers and royalty) played.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 26, 1998
Format: Paperback
In fall 1972 I was a student traveling around the British Isles with a backpack and a rail pass. Finding myself stuck in Dublin for several days, I bought a copy of this book to while away the time. Previously I'd known of the Potato Famine only as a blessing-in-disguise that drove some of my ancestors to America. This book is rather dry and statistical, but the story it tells is damning. The Potato Famine was traditionally blamed on the laziness of the Irish, who had grown dependent on a single, easy-to-grow crop. Woodham-Smith shows convincingly that the real villains were the British landlords, who were trying to squeeze the maximum profit out of their tenants, and the British government, who denied the magnitude of the problem until it could no longer be concealed and then blamed it on the victims. I found the book engrossing, read it through in a few days, and have reread it several times since. Although it seems short on "human interest," some of the stories the author tells (e.g., the account of famine victims in Skibbereen, Co. Cork) are almost too painful to bear. Perhaps it's just as well that she let the facts and figures speak for themselves; they're horrifying enough!
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57 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Chris Fogarty on June 21, 1998
Format: Paperback
The BritIrish history establishment has never forgiven Woodham-Smith this watershed book that exposes their cover-up. It took only her few mentions of the British regiments' at-gunpoint removal of Ireland's livestock and grains to end the "perfect" status of history's only "perfect" genocide. By even touching upon the Food Removal this book shatters the "Potato Famine" Big Lie that had ruled for the previous 110 years. Note where the author inserts two math fudges to produce her falsely-low death toll. (After reporting the 1841 official partial recount and how it proved that the 1841 census had undercounted by one-third, the author, nevertheless, used the figure that she knew to be false to lower the death toll [to get published, I am told]). Her fudges yield a death toll of "some 2.5 millions." Once her fudges are removed, her methodology and official figures produce a death toll of 5.16 millions. She also omitted the readily-available identities of each of the 75 Food Removal regiments and the warships convoying the lines of grain ships departing for England. She subtly blows the Irish history establishment's cover-up by complimenting their generosity in blaming the genocide on the potato crop failures and the victims' "fecklessness." This book remains, by far, the most truthful Irish "famine" book ever published. A courageous author! An effective opponent of genocide! A Must Read!
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