In Our Time: History

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."

With

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

And

Enda Delaney

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

Producer: Simon Tillotson

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