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The Great Irish Famine

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why so many were vulnerable to the failure of the potato crops in Ireland in the 1840s, what relief was given and why so many died or left.

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss why the potato crop failures in the 1840s had such a catastrophic impact in Ireland. It is estimated that one million people died from disease or starvation after the blight and another two million left the country within the decade. There had been famines before, but not on this scale. What was it about the laws, attitudes and responses that made this one so devastating?

The image above is from The Illustrated London News, Dec. 29, 1849, showing a scalp or shelter, "a hole, surrounded by pools, and three sides of the scalp were dripping with water, which ran in small streams over the floor and out by the entrance. The poor inhabitants said they would be thankful if the landlord would leave them there, and the Almighty would spare their lives. Its principal tenant is Margaret Vaughan."


Cormac O'Grada
Professor Emeritus in the School of Economics at University College Dublin

Niamh Gallagher
University Lecturer in Modern British and Irish History at the University of Cambridge


Enda Delaney
Professor of Modern History and School Director of Research at the University of Edinburgh

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

57 minutes

Last on

Thu 4 Apr 2019 21:30


Cormac Ó Gráda at University College Dublin

Niamh Gallagher at the University of Cambridge

Enda Delaney at the University of Edinburgh

Views of the Irish Famine: Contemporary newspaper articles and illustrations from the Great Hunger in Ireland, 1845-52

‘A Jig in the Poorhouse’ by Breandán Mac Suibhne - Dublin Review of Books, 2016

Moving Beyond ‘Rags to Riches’: Using Digital History to Uncover the Lost Stories of New York’s Irish Famine Immigrants, 2018

‘Laissez-faire, the Irish famine, and British financial crisis c.1846-50’ by Charles Read

The Great Irish Famine – Wikipedia



John Crowley, Michael Murphy and William J. Smith (eds.), Atlas of the Great Irish Famine (Cork University Press, 2012)

Enda Delaney, The Great Irish Famine: A History in Four Lives (Gill & Macmillan Ltd, 2014)

Enda Delaney and Breandán Mac Suibhne (eds.), Ireland's Great Famine and Popular Politics (Routledge. 2016)

James S. Donnelly, The Great Irish Potato Famine (Sutton Publishing, 2002)

R. D. Edwards and T. D. Williams (eds.), The Great Famine: Essays in Irish History (first published in 1956; Lilliput Press, 1995)

Peter Gray, The Irish Famine (Thames and Hudson Ltd, 1995)

James Kelly (ed.), The Cambridge History of Ireland, Volume 3, 1730-1880. Vol. 3 (Cambridge University Press, 2018), especially ‘The Great Famine, 1845-1850’ by Peter Gray

Christine Kinealy, The Great Irish Famine: Impact, Ideology and Rebellion (Palgrave, 2001)

Breandán Mac Suibhne, Subjects Lacking Words? The Gray Zone of the Great Famine (Cork University Press, 2017)

Cormac Ó Gráda, Ireland’s Great Famine: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (University College Dublin, 2006)

Cormac Ó Gráda, Famine: A Short History (Princeton University Press, 2010)

Ciarán Ó Murchadha, The Great Famine: Ireland’s Agony 1845–1852 (Continuum, 2012)

Cecil Woodham-Smith, The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849 (first published 1962; Penguin, 1991)



  • Thu 4 Apr 2019 09:00
  • Thu 4 Apr 2019 21:30

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