#78 – Notes on The Irish Famine

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In this edition of The Aidan Project, Aidan examines the claims regarding culpability and blame within the historiography of The Irish Famine (circa 1845-1850). The Irish Famine devastated Ireland’s population: it is estimated to have killed a million people, with around two million more people forced to leave the country. Furthermore, this appalling event is a key example of the uneasy history between Ireland and the United Kingdom. At the time of the Famine, Ireland was a formal part of the UK, following the Act of Union in 1801. Did the British intend to extirpate the Irish, as has often been claimed, or were the British simply incompetent? The genocide charge dominates the historiography of the Famine. This debate over culpability and blame is, of course, a contentious one. This episode, after providing a brief introduction to the Famine, will summarise the competing arguments. This episode includes audio from episode 24 – The Irish Famine: Tragedy and Propaganda, which featured an interview with Professor Liam Kennedy, Emeritus Professor of History at Queen’s University Belfast. Aidan and Professor Kennedy discussed the comparisons made by Irish nationalists between the Irish Famine and the Jewish Holocaust. Professor Kennedy’s most recent book is Unhappy the Land: The Most Oppressed People Ever, the Irish.

Expanded show notes:

#24 – The Irish Famine: Tragedy and Propaganda

‘Blair issues apology for Irish Potato Famine’, The Independent, 1 June 1997.


D. George Boyce and Alan O’Day, The Making of Modern Irish History: Revisionism and the Revisionist Controversy, (London: Routledge, 1996).

Richard English, Irish Freedom: The History of Nationalism in Ireland, (London: Macmillan, 2007).

Peter Gray, The Irish Famine, (London: Thames & Hudson, 1995).

John Mitchel, ‘The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps)’, Boston College Libraries, https://archive.org/details/lastconquestofir00mitc, accessed on 11 February 2018. [Note: Digital version of The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps) (1882). Other publishing dates listed are 1860 and 1873.]

Cormac Ó Gráda, The Great Irish Famine, (Cambridge: Macmillan, 1995).