Studies in Irish History and Literature
The Great Hunger (The Irish Famine)
Dr. William Rogers
Many historians believe that the Famine (1845-1852) known as The Great Hunger or An Gorta Mor in Irish, is the defining event in all of Irish history. While this claim may be debatable, there can be no doubt that the Famine had profound effects on Ireland, Britain and the United States. When the potato blight struck in 1845 the population of Ireland was over 8 million. By the time the Famine “ended” seven years later, the population was about 5 million, with parts of the west of Ireland nearly totally depopulated. Of the three million, over a million died and the rest emigrated to England, America, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and many other nations around the world. The Potato Famine has been included in the New Jersey State curriculum on genocide and Holocaust because some see a clear record of government complicity in this tragedy. This course seeks to explore the causes of the Famine, to discover why hundreds of thousands starved while tons of food was exported to England and Europe, to look at the long-range impact of the Famine on Ireland and America, and to engage the profound question of whether or not this horrible event can be properly classified as genocide as defined in the modern period. Readings will include primary texts such as memoirs, government reports, and newspaper accounts, as well as contemporary observers and modern historians, both Irish and American.
A starving Irish family from Carraroe, County Galway, during the Famine. Source: National Library of Ireland
Class participation, 20%; and Book review (2-3
pages) and class presentation, 30%; and Final paper (12-15 pages), 50%.
Book review will be an analysis of a work–fiction, biography or historical–concerning
the Famine, which is then presented to the class. The final paper should
explore in depth any topic related to the Famine, preferably covered (or
at least touched upon) in class, although the paper may approach the subject
through the use of readings not used in class.
"Digging for potatoes" from the London Illustrated News, 1849:
The Great Hunger, Cecil Woodham-Smith
A Death Dealing Famine, Christine Kinealy
Black ‘47; Cormac O’Grada
The Great Famine; Arthur Gribben
Famine; Liam O’Flaherty
Hungry Earth, Sean Kenny
Irish Hunger: Personal Reflections on the Legacy of the Famine; Tom Hayden
January 28: Introduction; “All of Irish history in a day!”
February 4: Prelude to Disaster, W-S, 1-7; Kinealy, 1-2
February 11: The Famine Begins, W-S, 8-12; Kinealy, 3-5
February 18: A Blessing from God, W-S, 13-end; Kinealy, 6, O’Grada 1-3
February 25: Black ‘47, O’Grada, 4-5
March 4: The End of a People, Kinealy, 7
March 11: Spring Break
March 18: The Famine and the World, Gribben, 1-5 Presentations Begin.
March 25: The Famine and the World, cont., Gribben 6-10
April1: The Famine in Literature, Begin O’Flaherty
April 8: The Famine in Literature, cont., finish O’Flaherty
April 15: The Famine in Literature, cont., read Kenny
April 22: The Great Hunger and the hole in our
hearts: The Famine and Memory
O’Grada, 6; Gribben, 11-12; read Hayden
April 29: The Famine in Memory, cont.
May 6: Conclusion, Final Paper Due.
A family evicted by their landlords. Source: Lawrence
Collection, National Library of Ireland.
The Great Famine, Arthur Gribben
The Boston Irish, Thomas O’Connor
The Irish Stories of Sarah Orne Jewett, Sara Orne Jewett
How the Irish Became White, Noel Ignatiev
Angela’s Ashes/Tis, Frank McCourt
A Monk Swimming/Singing My Him Song, Malachy McCourt
Sweet Liberty: Travels in Irish America, Joseph O’Connor
Ireland’s Unfinished Revolution, Kevin Griffith
The Troubles, Tim Pat Coogan
The Irish War, Tony Geraghty
The Irish Brigade, David Conyngham
Whoredom in Kimmage: The World of Irish Women, Rosemary Mahoney
Are you Somebody?, Nuala O’Faolain
The American Connection, Jack Holland
God and the Gun, Martin Dillon
The Brendan Voyage, Tim Severin
The Great Calamity, Thomas Kineally
Anam Cara, John O’Donohue
Beyond the Ballot Box, Dennis P. Ryan
The New York Irish, Ronald Bayor and Timothy Meagher, eds.
The Irish in America
Out of Ireland
The Ulster Question Since 1945, James Loughlin
Ireland: The Politics of Independence, Mike Cronin and John Regan
Irish America, Reginald Bryon
Inventing and Resisting Britain, Murray Pittock
Writing in the Irish Republic, Ray Ryan
From The Illustrated London News, July 6, 1850.
"The Embarkation, Waterloo Docks, Liverpool."