The Death Census of Black ’47: Eyewitness Accounts of Ireland’s Great Famine

The Death Census of Black ’47: Eyewitness Accounts of Ireland’s Great Famine

By Liam Kennedy
Donald M. MacRaild
Lewis Darwen
Brian Gurrin

Anthem Irish Studies

The Great Irish Famine claimed the lives of one million people, mainly from the lower classes. In recent decades, its history has become the focus of considerable scholarly and popular attention, but much remains to be retrieved and reconstructed, particularly at the level of the rural poor. This book fills that gap.

PDF, 330 Pages

ISBN:9781839984327

January 2023

£0.00, $0.00

EPUB, 330 Pages

ISBN:9781839984334

January 2023

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  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
  • Links
  • Podcasts

About This Book

The Great Irish Famine claimed the lives of one million people, mainly from the lower classes. More than a million others fled the stricken land between 1845 and 1851. This catastrophe ranks among the worst famines to afflict pre-industrial societies, and it retains an important place in the psyche of the Irish people and the Irish diaspora to this day. In recent decades, its history has become the focus of considerable scholarly and popular attention. In particular, a tremendous amount of work has been undertaken on mortality, emigration, relief efforts and the wider political, social and psychological consequences of the calamity. Yet much remains to be retrieved and reconstructed, particularly at the level of the rural poor. This book intends to fill that gap. Astonishingly, there is a large volume of reports on social conditions in the Irish localities, emanating from within those localities, that has never been used systematically by historians. It bears the compelling title of the ‘Death Census’. Most historians are simply unaware of its existence. The outstanding feature of the Death Census is that it was authored by local clergymen who lived among the people they served, and were intimately involved with their lives. 

The census, which has never been published in composite form, is a unique store house of testimonies from near the base of society that awaits the attention of students of famine in Ireland. Ninety-nine clergymen from across Ireland, with marked concentrations in the worst affected parts of the country, contributed to the census. Some of these documents are coloured by politics, which in itself is revealing, but most aspire to more dispassionate representations of the horror facing a famishing people within the ‘little society’ of the parish, accompanied by appeals, explicit or implicit, to the humanitarian instincts of the wider society. In terms of wider significance, this is one of the great unstudied texts of modern Irish history. This book brings the Death Census together in composite form for the first time, and provides a detailed examination of its contents. The result is a new understanding of the Great Famine as it was experienced on the ground.

Reviews

‘This volume provides both a new source for determining the level of tragic local deaths as a result of the Great Famine and a brilliantly new way of evaluating the ameliorative efforts of the United Kingdom government. Famine studies will be significantly changed in light of this radical study’ —Professor Donald H. Akenson.

‘Based on 100 eyewitness statements, amounting to almost 50,000 words of testimony, the death census of 1847 demonstrates that there are still sources to be recovered that add depth and nuance to our understanding of the tragedy known as the Great Famine. Stunning research by four accomplished scholars’ —Professor Christine Kinealy, Director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University, USA.

‘This book is a wonderful resource for all those who want to learn more about the most important event in Irish history. The Catholic clergy who prepared the reports were uniquely well placed to document the devastation across the country in Black ’47. The Death Census enables readers to drill down into the local experience of Ireland’s Great Famine using this unique source to understand how the catastrophe affected ordinary people in communities across the country in the late 1840s.’ —Professor Enda Delaney, University of Edinburgh, UK.

Author Information

Professor Liam Kennedy is a historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Irish economy and society.

Professor Donald M. MacRaild is a leading specialist on the history of the Irish diaspora. He has also published on British diasporas, modern social and labour history, and edits a series on Theory and History for Palgrave Macmillan.

Dr Lewis Darwen specialises in British social and political history. He has longstanding research interests in nineteenth-century social policy, and has published widely in this field.  

Dr Brian Gurrin, a demographic historian, is author (with Kerby Miller and Liam Kennedy) of Irish Religious Censuses of the 1760s: Catholics and Protestants in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (2022). He is currently a researcher on the ‘Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury’ project.

Series

Anthem Irish Studies

Table of Contents

List of Figures, Tables, and Maps; Acknowledgements; Introduction; Part I, Chapter One The Great Famine; Chapter Two The Death Census of 1847; Chapter Three The Politics of Famine Mortality; Chapter Four Estimates of Famine Mortality in the Death Census; Chapter Five Eyewitness Accounts of Black ’47; Chapter Six Famine, Priests and People; Part II, Chapter Seven The Death Census: Testimony in Context; Bibliography; Index 

Links

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