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Been reading a bit around the great famine of late. It's something that seems to have slipped from public consciousness in Britain, although the suffering it engendered seems horrific almost beyond belief. It certainly seems clear there is a great deal of truth to support the famous quote that:

"The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine."

Most modern historians seem to have coalesced around the view that the inadequate response of the British government was down to a destructive mixture of ideology and religion. That, together with the weakness of the Irish legislature that made it possible for Irish landowners and the government to pass the buck between them with neither accepting final responsibility.

Some have even suggested their intentions were good, and that there was a genuine belief, born of ignorance of conditions in Ireland, that laissez-fare would help. The reviled Trevelyan even apparently said in his instructions:

"People must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to starve."

Which suggests that, in private, his attitude was not quite as viciously inhumane as some of his other public proclamations suggest.

Genocide is currently defined by the UN as acts intended to

"destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group"

And even those who sought the "improvement" of poor, overpopulated Ireland through death and suffering do not seem to have sought deliberate ethnic cleansing. Rather, these attitudes seem in line with the general, brutal, opinions of poverty held by the middle and upper classes in the 19th century.

Given the modern view of incompetence and ideology over malice, what evidence do those nationalist historians who claim the famine - such as John Mitchel and Tim Coogan - was a deliberate genocide, base their view?

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    It would help if you'd cite at least one of the historians advocating this view. – Mark C. Wallace Jun 7 '18 at 19:27
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    @mark-c-wallace - edited as requested. I've not read them, obviously, else I could answer my own question: just seen them mentioned in references. – Matt Thrower Jun 7 '18 at 20:20
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    @MattThrower You might also like to take a look at their Wikipedia pages too. John Mitchel wasn't actually an historian, and Coogan isn't without his critics. – sempaiscuba Jun 7 '18 at 21:18
  • Just found this on Reddit which is relevant and interesting reddit.com/r/history/comments/81xh45/… – Matt Thrower Jun 8 '18 at 11:25
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This is a controversial subject both historically and politically. It is not settled history and is debated by historians on both sides of the issue. Given that here is the case made for genocide.

Genocide is defined as the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group. By that basis I've seen it argued the British did not commit genocide because some of the British policies which created the famine predate the famine by decades and even centuries. I've seen it argued, incompetence and indifference, does not rise to the level of "deliberate". The argument in favor of genocide makes note that Ireland is 100 miles off the coast of the UK, and to dismiss Whitehall's inaction to incompetence given a third of the population of Ireland slowly starved to death on their doorstep over seven years is refuted by Whitehall exhibited no such incompetence when reacting to famines in other parts of the UK (such as the Scottish famine caused by the same potato blight and which occurred at the same time). Also, other than the response to the Great Irish Famine, these same politicians are not recognized for their incompetence so much as their stern policies towards Ireland.

The British in the mid 1800's were certainly indifferent to the Irish Famine.

Charles Trevelyan, who was in charge of the administration of government relief, limited the Government's food aid program because of a firm belief in laissez-faire. He thought that "the judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson".
...
whilst in Scotland he (Trevelyan) was closely associated with the work of the Central Board for Highland Relief. His inaction and personal negative attitude towards the Irish people are widely believed to have slowed relief for the famine.

Trevelyan placed charge of the British response, or failure to respond under the Whig Party's Lord Russell. Lord Russell came to power when the previous Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel tried to repeal the Corn Laws to help relieve the Irish Famine. Peel tried twice to accomplish this, the second time his government coalition fractured and he was ushered out of power. Lord Russell therefore came to power with a mandate to take a harder line on the Irish.

Indifference exhibited by a lack of response wasn't Britain's only contribution to creating the famine.

IN 1997 Tony Blair, the British prime minister, made the first formal apology for Britain’s role in the Irish famine.

Perhaps what Blair was apologizing for included a series of British laws designed to punish and weaken the Irish ruling and middle classes which left the country economically underdeveloped, uneducated, and unskilled. The centuries of systemic discrimination under British law left the Irish especially vulnerable in 1840 to address the famine on their own. Many of the Irish due these coercive laws, were relegated to subsistence farming on small parcels of land where few crops could be grown which would yield the number of calories required to support the tenants. The potato was one such crop and became a staple for the Irish. Thus, when the potato blight hit globally, the accompanying famine only hit the poorest, most vulnerable, who had been left systemically unprotected; the Irish. On the European Continent, United States, and elsewhere, which were also effected by the potato blight, other crops softened the impact of the absence of the potato crop. Thus the effects of the blight did not result in famine.

Ireland too had other crops, but here too British policy dissuaded these crops from being used to ease the famine. Crops exported from Ireland were taxed at a lower rate, so they could be sold in Britain for a lucrative price. Crops from elsewhere in the world brought into Ireland were taxed at the higher rate so they were prohibitively expensive to procure. While the population of Ireland was starving, Ireland exported much of there food through out the famine. There were also cases where the British government interceded to discourage foreign governments from giving aid to the Irish during the famine.

From a historical perspective, The Great Famine(1845–1852) was not an isolated event. It was actually the second of three famines which hit Ireland. The first famine or Irish Famine also under British Rule occurred in (1740–41) and killed between 20-40% of the Irish people. The Last famine occurred 1879 was not as deadly as the first two; however it did fuel Irish immigration to the United States.

Lastly, there is a history of famine being used as a marshal/political tool in conflicts between the Irish and the British. In the 9 years war (1593 to 1603) fought between Gaelic Irish chieftains and the English Crown, 100,000 people mostly civilians died on the Irish side, the vast majority due to starvation. Starvation intentionally caused by the British which targeted the Civilians in the conflict.

9 years war
The English scorched earth tactics were especially harsh on the civilian population, who died in great numbers both from direct targeting and from famine.

Likewise when Cromwell conquered Ireland 1649–53, 20-40% of the civilian population of Ireland died, due to both famine created as a strategy to win the war and by direct targeting.

Cromwell conquered Ireland John Hewson systematically destroyed food stocks in counties Wicklow and Kildare, Hardress Waller did likewise in the Burren in County Clare, as did Colonel Cook in County Wexford. The result was famine throughout much of Ireland, aggravated by an outbreak of bubonic plague.[26] As the guerrilla war ground on, the Parliamentarians, as of April 1651, designated areas such as County Wicklow and much of the south of the country as what would now be called free-fire zones, where anyone found would be, "taken slain and destroyed as enemies and their cattle and good shall be taken or spoiled as the goods of enemies". This tactic had succeeded in the Nine Years' War.

One persuasive counter argument to these events is they occurred two hundred years removed from the Great Irish Famine and occurred in a different time and different age. The rebuttal to that is the punitive laws designed to impoverish the Irish adopted after these rebellions, remained in effect for hundreds of years or nearly right up until the Great Irish Famine occurred. This it's argued indicates the relationship between the peoples hadn't advance much in those interceding centuries.

That's basically the case. The Great Irish Famine wasn't an isolated event under British rule. Famine was used as a tool against the Irish historically. British Laws which severely impacted economic, educational and political opportunity; and created the vulnerability in the Irish people that the potato blight exploited to create the famine. British politicians who had the authority and means to intervene chose not to. Their stated reasons included ones based upon race and religion. The person in charge of the British relief(Trevelyan) went so far as to equate the famine with God's judgement on the Irish. Finally far from easing the effects of the Great Famine the British policy makers continuously made the ongoing crisis worse by limiting food imports, promoting food exports, and discouraging foreign aid. The combination of these policies would create a famine which would consume a third of the people of Ireland where the rest of the world subject to the same potato blight did not experience any such phenomena.

Detailed Answer

The Irish Great Famine occurred from 1845–1852.

- A series of laws designed to punish and weaken the Irish ruling and middle class left the country uneducated, unskilled and vulnerable.

These laws included the Act of Uniformity, the Test Acts and the penal laws.

Penal Laws

  • Popery Act – Catholic inheritances of land were to be equally subdivided between all an owner's sons with the exception that if the eldest son and heir converted to Protestantism that he would become the one and only tenant of estate and portions for other children not to exceed one third of the estate. This "Gavelkind" system had previously been abolished by 1600. [1703-1829); This turn large estates into small subsistence farms.
  • 'No person of the popish religion shall publicly or in private houses teach school, or instruct youth in learning within this realm' upon pain of twenty pounds fine and three months in prison for every such offense. Repealed in 1782.
  • Exclusion of Catholics from most public offices (since 1607)
  • Presbyterians were also barred from public office from 1707
  • Ban on intermarriage with Protestants; repealed 1778
  • Presbyterian marriages were not legally recognized by the state
  • Catholics barred from holding firearms or serving in the armed forces (rescinded by Militia Act of 1793)
  • Bar from membership in either the Parliament of Ireland or the Parliament of England from 1652; rescinded 1662–1691; renewed 1691–1829, applying to the successive parliaments of England (to 1707), Great Britain (1707 to 1800), and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1800 to 1829).
  • Disenfranchising Act 1728, exclusion from voting until 1793; Exclusion from the legal professions and the judiciary; repealed (respectively) 1793 and 1829.
  • Education Act 1695 – ban on foreign education; repealed 1782. Bar to Catholics and Protestant Dissenters entering Trinity College Dublin; repealed 1793.
  • On a death by a Catholic, his legatee could benefit by conversion to the Church of Ireland;
  • Ban on converting from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism on pain of Praemunire: forfeiting all property estates and legacy to the monarch of the time and remaining in prison at the monarch's pleasure. In addition, forfeiting the monarch's protection. No injury however atrocious could have any action brought against it or any reparation for such. Ban on Catholics buying land under a lease of more than 31 years; repealed 1778.
  • Ban on custody of orphans being granted to Catholics on pain of 500 pounds that was to be donated to the Blue Coat hospital in Dublin. Ban on Catholics inheriting Protestant land
  • Prohibition on Catholics owning a horse valued at over £5 (to keep horses suitable for military activity out of the majority's hands) Roman Catholic lay priests had to register to preach under the Registration Act 1704, but seminary priests and Bishops were not able to do so until 1778
  • When allowed, new Catholic churches were to be built from wood, not stone, and away from main roads.
  • Any and all rewards not paid by the crown for alerting authorities of offenses to be levied upon the Catholic populace within parish and county.

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Because of the British policies which created these circumstances when the potato blight hit globally, the accompanying famine only hit the poorest, most vulnerable, who had been left systemically unprotected, the Irish.

Great Irish Famine
(Potato Blight) which ravaged potato crops throughout Europe during the 1840s. However, the impact in Ireland was disproportionate, as one third of the population was dependent on the potato for a range of ethnic, religious, political, social, and economic reasons, such as land acquisition, absentee landlords, and the Corn Laws, which all contributed to the disaster to varying degrees and remain the subject of intense historical debate.

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Ireland too had other crops from larger farms which weren't in subsistence mode, but here too British policy dissuaded these crops from being used to ease the famine.

British had established import tariffs on grains which extended to Ireland, (Corn Laws). This made grains not subject to the potato blight costly to import, and it made Irish grains not subject to the British tariffs lucrative to resell in Britain.

Corn Laws (1815 - 1846) The Corn Laws were tariffs and other trade restrictions on imported food and grain ("corn") enforced in Great Britain between 1815 and 1846. They were designed to keep grain prices high to favour domestic producers, and represented British mercantilism, since they were the only mercantilist laws of the country.1 The Corn Laws imposed steep import duties, making it too expensive to import grain from abroad, even when food supplies were short.

While the population of Ireland was starving, Ireland exported much of there food through out the famine.

Irish food exports during Famine
Records show that Irish lands exported food even during the worst years of the Famine. When Ireland had experienced a famine in 1782–83, ports were closed to keep Irish-grown food in Ireland to feed the Irish. Local food prices promptly dropped. Merchants lobbied against the export ban, but government in the 1780s overrode their protests.[79] No such export ban happened in the 1840s.[80]

Throughout the entire period of the Famine, Ireland was exporting enormous quantities of food. In the magazine History Ireland (1997, issue 5, pp. 32–36), Christine Kinealy, a Great Hunger scholar, lecturer, and Drew University professor, relates her findings: Almost 4,000 vessels carried food from Ireland to the ports of Bristol, Glasgow, Liverpool, and London during 1847, when 400,000 Irish men, women, and children died of starvation and related diseases.

There were also cases where the British government interceded to discourage foreign governments from giving aid to the Irish during the famine.

Famine
Ottoman Sultan, Khaleefah Abdul-Majid I, declared his intention to send £10,000 to aid Ireland's farmers. However, Queen Victoria intervened and requested that the Sultan send only £1,000 because she had sent only £2,000 herself.

So the Sultan sent only the £1,000, but he also secretly sent five ships full of food. The English courts attempted to block the ships, but the food arrived in Drogheda harbor and was left there by Ottoman sailors. That £10,000 that the Sultan pledged to the Irish would be worth approximately £800,000 ($1.7m) today.

Historians Don't Agree

Wikipedia Irish Famine as Genocide

In 1996, Francis A. Boyle, a law professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, wrote a report commissioned by the New York-based Irish Famine/Genocide Committee, which concluded that the British government deliberately pursued a race- and ethnicity-based policy aimed at destroying the group commonly known as the Irish people and that the policy of mass starvation amounted to genocide per the Hague Convention of 1948.

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In 1996, the U.S. state of New Jersey included the famine in the "Holocaust and Genocide Curriculum" for its secondary schools.

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James S. Donnelly, Jr., currently retired emeritus professor of history at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, wrote in his book, "Landlord and Tenant in Nineteenth-century Ireland": .
I would draw the following broad conclusion: at a fairly early stage of the Great Famine the government's abject failure to stop or even slow down the clearances (evictions) contributed in a major way to enshrining the idea of English state-sponsored genocide in Irish popular mind. Or perhaps one should say in the Irish mind, for this was a notion that appealed to many educated and discriminating men and women, and not only to the revolutionary minority ... And it is also my contention that while genocide was not in fact committed, what happened during and as a result of the clearances had the look of genocide to a great many Irish. .
Cormac Ó Gráda (professor of Economic History and professor emeritus of economics at University College Dublin.) disagreed that the famine was genocide. He argues that "genocide includes murderous intent, and it must be said that not even the most bigoted and racist commentators of the day sought the extermination of the Irish", and also that most people in Whitehall "hoped for better times for Ireland". Additionally, he states that the claim of genocide overlooks "the enormous challenge facing relief agencies, both central and local, public and private". Ó Gráda thinks that a case of neglect is easier to sustain than that of genocide

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    "Thus, when the potato blight hit globally, the accompanying famine only hit the poorest, most vulnerable, who had been left systemically unprotected; the Irish." I'm not entirely sure that the people of the Scottish Highlands who suffered & died during the Highland Potato Famine would agree with that assessment. – sempaiscuba Jun 7 '18 at 22:16
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    @sempaiscuba the highlands potato famine which occurred in parallel with the Irish potato famine is a great example of how prompt and overwhelming aid from the rest uk averted significant loss of life. Such aid never reached Ireland where as much as a third of the population died. – JMS Jun 8 '18 at 1:38
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    Actually, the Highland famine began a year later. The reason that aid did (eventually) arrive in the Highlands was, in fact, a direct result of the lessons learned in Ireland. Despite that, thousands of people suffered & died, and the Highland famine would be a major factor in the Highland Clearances which followed, displacing thousands. – sempaiscuba Jun 8 '18 at 1:46
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    @sempaiscuba Genuinely curious: if lessons learned from the Irish famine were applied successfully in Scotland a year later, why did the Irish famine continue for several more years? – Matt Thrower Jun 8 '18 at 8:30
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    @MattThrower the John Mitchel quote stated that it was "... an artificial famine. Potatoes failed in like manner all over Europe; yet there was no famine save in Ireland. The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine". It's not actually true, but then he was a politician rather than an historian. – sempaiscuba Jun 8 '18 at 10:06
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The other answer notes that this remains a controversial subject, and has already presented most of the evidence used by nationalist historians to make the case that the "Irish Potato Famine", or "Great Famine", was an instance of genocide.

However, it is equally important to examine the evidence that those historians tend to ignore. I will try to present some of that evidence here.


John Mitchel

John Mitchel was many things, but he was not an historian. One of his claims to fame is that he wrote what is, perhaps, the most famous soundbite about the Irish Famine (and the one you quote in your question):

"The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine."

This is taken from his book, The Last Conquest of Ireland (Perhaps), published in 1860. It is worth examining the paragraph in full:

"I have called it an artificial famine: that is to say, it was a famine which desolated a rich and fertile island that produced every year abundance and superabundance to sustain all her people and many more. The English, indeed, call the famine a "dispensation of Providence"; and ascribe it entirely to the blight on potatoes. But potatoes failed in like manner all over Europe; yet there was no famine save in Ireland. The British account of the matter, then, is first, a fraud; second, a blasphemy. The Almighty, indeed, sent the potato blight, but the English created the famine."

  • Mitchel, John, 1860, p219, my emphasis

So is this true?

Well, actually, no.

Yes, it is true that the potato blight devastated crops across Europe, but Ireland was by no means the only place that suffered famine. In Ireland, the famine lasted from 1845 to about 1849. The potato crop failed in the Scottish Highlands a year after the blight effected Ireland. The Highland Potato Famine would last for a decade, until about 1856.

The impact on the Scottish Highlands was less severe than that in Ireland, and the famine caused fewer deaths. In part this was because the population of the Highlands was smaller, but also – and perhaps more importantly – the impact was mitigated by aid (eventually) provided from elsewhere in the UK. This aid was provided as a direct result of lessons learned in Ireland.

Mitchel could hardly have been unaware of this. His claim that " … there was no famine save in Ireland" was clearly a lie. But, as I have pointed out, he was a politician, not an historian. Acknowledging that the potato blight had also caused famine elsewhere in the UK would have undermined his thesis that "…the English created the famine" in Ireland. Well, politicians being "economical with the truth" is nothing new!


Potato Blight

A comment on the other answer notes that the famine was caused by "Mold growing on plants". Well, this is true. Specifically, we now know that mould was Phytophthora infestans. However, at the time of the Irish Potato Famine they did not know the cause of the harvest failure. This is a fact that is often glossed-over by modern nationalist historians.

In fact, one of the first responses to the famine by the British government was the Prime-Minister, Sir Robert Peel, setting up a commission of enquiry to try to find out what was causing the potato failures, and to suggest ways of preserving good potatoes. That commission was headed by the scientists, John Lindley and Lyon Playfair. In turn, the report from that commission was instrumental in bringing about the repeal of the 1815 Corn Laws.

In Ireland, the potato harvest improved slightly in 1847, raising hopes that the threat of famine had passed, before collapsing again in 1848 and 1849. This lead to a second period of famine. In fact, in the latter period the spread of disease probably killed more people than starvation did (although those people were undoubtedly weakened by hunger). Death from disease peaked in 1849 when there was a Cholera outbreak (the cause of cholera was also unknown in 1849).

In the first year or so of the famine, there was no reason to suppose that the Irish Potato Famine was going to be any different from the scores of famines recorded in Ireland over the previous 200 years.

Viewed in this context, some of the initial failures of the Westminster government are, perhaps, understandable. It was thought to be a short-term problem. Measures for poor-relief were supposed to have been in place since 1838. The problem would be solved when the next potato crop came in the following year.

Now, of course we have the benefit of hindsight. That was not something available to the government of the day, but some, including the nationalist historian Tim Coogan that you mentioned in the question, certainly attempt to present the series of events as if it was. This failure to present the evidence in the context of the day was one of a series of criticisms levelled against Coogan in an often ill-tempered radio debate with the historian Liam Kennedy.

Similarly, the Scottish Highlands were an agriculturally marginal area and prone to famines. Notable famines are recorded in the 1680s, the 1690s, the 1740s, the 1750s and the 1780s. However, as noted above, the response in Scotland would be conditioned by the evidence from the famine in Ireland. Nevertheless, it was estimated that three-quarters of the population of the Highlands and the Hebrides had nothing at all to eat by the end of 1846.


Religion

Religion was certainly a factor in Ireland. Yes, the British government and the majority of the population of the rest of the UK were mainly Protestant, while the victims of the Irish Potato Famine were mostly Roman Catholics. However, the problem ran deeper than that.

In the 19th century, people in Europe were much more religious than they are today. Most generally still believed that a natural disaster was somehow "God's judgement" on the victims (unless they themselves were the victims of the disaster, obviously!). An in fairness to them, we don't actually have to search too hard to find people who still express similar views today.

In the case of a disaster such as the Irish Famine, this clearly created a dilemma. How far should Christian charity be employed to counter the "judgement of the Almighty"? In this context it is worth reading the 2011 thesis The Presbyterian response to the famine years 1845 to 1855 within Ireland and in the Highlands of Scotland.

One person who's views are frequently quoted by historians (nationalist or otherwise) in the context of the Irish Famine is Charles Edward Trevelyan. He was Assistant Secretary to the Treasury during the Irish Famine, and as such responsible for government assistance to Ireland during that period. His attitudes are therefore undoubtedly relevant to any investigation of the Irish Famine.

His personal archive has been deposited in the Special Collections at Newcastle University.

In a letter to the Irish peer, Lord Monteagle of Brandon, Trevelyan expressed his opinion that:

"The judgement of God sent the calamity to teach the Irish a lesson, that calamity must not be too much mitigated",

and

"The real evil with which we have to contend is not the physical evil of the Famine, but the moral evil of the selfish, perverse and turbulent character of the people".

While these views are abhorrent to modern eyes – and they would undoubtedly have also been so to some of his contemporaries – as noted above, for many at that time this would have seemed quite reasonable. However, placing those statements within their historical context is not something that nationalist historians tend to dwell on.

However, notwithstanding any religious views he may or may not have held, Trevelyan was certainly not above taking advantage of "God's judgement" to achieve his own political goals. In a letter to Edward Twisleton, the Chief Poor Law Commissioner in Ireland, he wrote:

"We must not complain of what we really want to obtain. If small farmers go, and their landlords are reduced to sell portions of their estates to persons who will invest capital we shall at last arrive at something like a satisfactory settlement of the country".

In my view, it is unfortunate, and perhaps surprising, that more emphasis hasn't been placed on these opinions, rather than the more shocking (to modern eyes) quasi-religious views above, since it is statements like this that reflect the laissez-faire, free-market attitude which actually largely determined the government response to the famine.

The Government Response

This is an area where the nationalist historians arguing that the Irish Potato Famine was an instance of genocide are notoriously reticent. There is a tendency to simply quote from Trevelyan's letters and create the impression that this was the sum of the government response. In fact this was not the case.

As we saw above, the first response of the government was the commission of enquiry established by Sir Robert Peel to determine the cause of the failures of the potato crop. One outcome of that enquiry was the repeal of the 1815 Corn Laws. But this way by no means the only response.

Fin Dwyer, creator of the Irish History podcast, provided a brief summary of the main responses by the Westminster government to the Irish Potato Famine in a Reddit AMA. He identifies 4 key reactions which I quote in full here:

Reaction 1

In 1845 most historians acknowledge that serious efforts were made by the prime minister Sir Robert Peel (Conservative Party) to alleviate famine. In secret he imported 100,000 of grain. This was intended to be used the following year to control prices. It was carried out in secret because it was known that private merchants would not import into a market they knew the government was going to partially control.

This was relatively effective (Christine Kinealy has argued this was only the case because they over-estimated the extent of the crisis).

Reaction 2

The following year the crisis deepened with a second failure of the potato crop. However an election in the summer deposed the Tories and brought the Liberal Party to power. As advocates of Free Trade, they massively scaled back imports of food and moved famine relief in another direction.

They organised massive public works programmes so the poor could earn money to buy food. This was disastrous. The work (often pointless infrastructural projects) was too hard and wages to low to buy enough food to survive.

The cost of pubic works was enormous and reached nearly 1 million pounds per month in early 1847. This combined with the fact it was a total failure saw them temporarily adopt a third policy.

Reaction 3

In 1847 they opened soup kitchens and although widely criticised they did massively reduce deaths during the summer of 1847.

Reaction 4

However in September of 1847 they instituted a fourth major change where famine relief now was put on to poor law unions. Poor Law Unions were the equivalent of local social welfare administrations that ran workhouses in Ireland and were funded by local property taxes. The idea was rooted in the prevalent idea in England that ‘Irish property should pay for Irish poverty’.

These responses illustrate a sequence of changing government policies which, ineffective as we now know they often were, were clearly a series of attempts to tackle the problems created by the famines in Ireland.

These policies make no sense if the goal was genocide, and so it is no surprise that they tend to be ignored or, glossed over by nationalist historians who want to make that argument.


As you note in the question, most modern historians tend to view the evidence as a whole, and so do not accept the idea that the Irish Famine was an instance of genocide. This modern view prefers to employ Hanlon's Razor:

Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.

to that evidence, and generally concludes that the government did not intend the deaths that resulted from the famine. This was not an example of genocide.

That said, the UK government in Westminster could, and should, have done more to counter the effects of the famine in Ireland. The historical evidence suggests that their failure was the result of a toxic mix of ideology, incompetence and religion.

In short, the famine was not created by the English, but the governments of the day certainly failed in their efforts to tackle its effects.

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    You might emphasise a bit more that for a certain time now almost every famine can be traced not so much to natural causes, disasters and the like but to the general failure of larger structures of organisation, that is distribution. Ireland as an ongoing exporter of food in that time being the best proof. – LangLangC Jun 8 '18 at 20:19
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    @LangLangC Perhaps. The problem with the issue of distribution during the Irish Famine is that it can be (and is) used as an argument on both sides of the argument (in previous famines, the government had closed Irish ports forcing owners of the grain to sell it in Ireland at a lower price that people could afford. However, the new Liberal government opposed this on the grounds of laissez-faire). In this answer, I've tried to address the question of evidence ignored by nationalist historians, while the evidence regarding distribution is used by both sides of the debate. – sempaiscuba Jun 9 '18 at 17:01
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – sempaiscuba Oct 19 '18 at 17:57

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