Ireland’s Great Famine and Popular Politics

Delaney, Enda
Mac Suibhne, Breandán
Date published: 
May 2013

Ireland’s Great Famine of 1845–52 was among the most devastating food crises in modern history. A country of some eight-and-a-half-million people lost one million to hunger and disease and another million to emigration. According to Irish land activist Michael Davitt, the starving made little or no effort to assert "the animal’s right to existence”. But the poor did resist. In word and deed, they defied landlords, merchants and agents of the state: they rioted for food, opposed rent and rate collection, challenged the decisions of relief works, and scorned clergymen. The essays collected here examine the full range of resistance in the Great Famine, and illuminate how the crisis itself transformed popular politics.