Paul Johnson

A deeply stricken country

Ireland has suffered bitterly over the centuries through war and want. And the disastrous famine of 1845-9 proves in itself a divisive subject, says <em>Paul Johnson</em>

When, many years ago, I finished reading Cecil Woodham-Smith’s fine and tragic The Great Hunger, I swore never to read another book about the Irish famine of 1845-9. But they continue to be published, and they do not always agree. Tim Pat Coogan’s The Famine Plot: England’s Role in Ireland’s Greatest Tragedy, whose title says everything about the book, claims that ‘fully a quarter’ of Ireland’s population died of starvation or emigrated.

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