The Irish Potato Famine with Jennifer Carbery

The Irish Potato Famine with Jennifer Carbery


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The famine in Ireland, triggered by a blight in potato crops, ravaged Ireland from 1845 to 1849. It was a humanitarian catastrophe ignored by the British government even as Quakers, Native American Choctaws, the Ottoman empire, and others sent assistance. This conversation will unravel the events that led to such a human disaster, explain the horrors of what happened, and discuss the devastating effects.

"I saw the dying, the living, and the dead, lying indiscriminately upon the same floor.” Declared James Mahoney an illustrator in 1847 with ‘The Illustrated London News’ as he traveled through his home county reporting what he witnessed. Why were the poor so dependent on a single crop rotation, the potato? How did the poor laws and a pyramid rent system amplify the struggles for the worst off in society?

In this seminar, we will listen to testimonies, dissect the official British administration’s response, and learn how the Quakers highlighted the plight of the poor. We’ll meet the antagonists, like Lord Trevelyn, who chose to export American corn rather than distribute so as not to interfere with international pricing. We’ll encounter some of the victims, such as Patrick Tighe and Thomas Quinn who landed at the quarantine island of Grosse Isle in Canada having lost their parents and three siblings on the forty-five-day crossing. We’ll engage with the writings of Asenath Nicolson, an American lady who traveled throughout the island from 1846-1849 and learn about her legacy.

Led by an expert on Irish history, Jennifer Carbery, this interactive seminar will engage participants in understanding the complexities surrounding the Famine in Ireland which took the lives of 1.2 million people and saw the emigration of 2 million more. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of issues of land rights, poor houses, emigration, the Irish diaspora, records, commemoration, memory, and history.

Jennifer works with historical research around Ireland's complex history. She studied Anthropology and History as a mature student and upon completion she worked in Archaeology; digging the land for treasure. She has her own business providing research and content for historic sites, events, and radio. She teaches, assesses, and trains students, guides, and learners in history. She has written several apps for tours within Ireland.

This course is not suitable for children under age 16

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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