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The Irish Famine
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About the Author

Colm Toibin is the author of four novels (The Blackwater Lightship was shortlisted for the Booker) and also a book about Catholic Europe. Diarmaid Ferriter is one of Ireland's best-known historians and is Professor of Modern Irish History at UCD. His books include The Transformation of Ireland 1900-2000 (2004), Judging Dev: A Reassessment of the life and legacy of Eamon de Valera (2007), Occasions of Sin: Sex and Society in Modern Ireland (2009) and Ambiguous Republic: Ireland in the 1970s (2012). His most recent book is A Nation and not a Rabble: The Irish Revolution 1913-23 (2015) He is a regular broadcaster on television and radio and a weekly columnist with the Irish Times. In 2010 he presented a three-part history of twentieth century Ireland, The Limits of Liberty, on RTE television.

Reviews

Novelist Toibin (Blackwater Lightship) and historian and lecturer Ferriter (Dublin City Univ.) have edited and annotated a collection of letters, news reports, editorials, and statistics gathered from primary and published materials about the Irish famine of 1846-48. Contrary to a thesis first introduced in Cecil Woodham-Smith's The Great Hunger (1963), the editors argue that the famine was self-inflicted, shifting blame from the British government to Irish landowners and merchants, who aggravated the distress and profited from it. But this work further accuses historians of ignoring the role of class in the famine. Trying also to provide a study of Victorian language and psyche, the editors juxtapose death tolls and horror stories from the provinces with castigations of the indolent Irish and recipes for cooking rotten potatoes. Having written just 38 pages of narrative, the editors advance their argument using the words of famine eyewitnesses and contemporaries. Some of the excerpts are exceptional, and the concept is powerful, but as a result of the unconventional approach the selections look random and unstructured. Large academic collections will find this title an interesting exercise in alternative scholarly editing. Robert Moore, Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Imaging, Billerica, MA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

Colm Tobin's opening essay [is] quite outstanding ... a very model of wisdom, of profound moral engagement and of scholarship, the very same qualities which inspired Diarmaid Ferriter's choice of documents. This small but brilliant book reaches right into the heart of the most tragic period in Irish history. I recommend it unreservedly. -- Kevin Myers * Spectator *
Unusual and fascinating * Sunday Independent (Dublin) *
Colm Toibin's opening essay [is] quite outstanding ... a very model of wisdom, of profound moral engagement and of scholarship, the very same qualities which inspired Diarmaid Ferriter's choice of documents. This small but brilliant book reaches right into the heart of the most tragic period in Irish history. I recommend it unreservedly. -- Kevin Myers * Spectator *

Between 1846 and 1849, the potato blight left some one million Irish citizens dead of starvation or disease; Booker Prize-nominated novelist Colm Toibin (The Blackwater Lightship) and historian Diarmaid Ferriter team up to reconsider the tragedy (was it the fault of the British?) in The Irish Famine: A Documentary. Toibin pens a historiography that acknowledges "no narrative now seems capable of combining the sheer scale of the tragedy..., the complex society which surrounded it and the high politics which governed it," while Ferriter compiles a wide range of documents, including letters, newspaper articles and relief commission reports, to offer a scholarly look at the days of (in the words of a parish priest) "calamity" and "universal doom." Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.

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