Pur Autre Vie

I'm not wrong, I'm just an asshole

Monday, November 17, 2014

Notes on the Famine

I recently read The Irish Famine:  A Documentary by Colm Tóibín and Diarmaid Ferriter.  It is a very good book, though a very hard one to read.  I'll have more to say about it.  Briefly, though, I think it's important to recognize a few things that should bear on our understanding of the famine:

1.  Ireland's demographic and economic structure was horribly dysfunctional well before the famine broke out.  (See my previous post on the book, and note that the passage I quote was written well before the potato blight ever reached Ireland.)

2.  Partly as a result of Ireland's preexisting problems, addressing the famine was an incredibly difficult task.

3.  The government of the United Kingdom took the famine very seriously and the officials who administered the relief programs were by no means incompetent or callous, on the whole.

4.  Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine that the government took the famine remotely as seriously, or addressed it remotely as effectively, as it would have if the famine had taken place in Britain.

I'll have more to say later.