God and the Great Failure: Poetry from the Irish Famine


  • Chris Watson School of English, La Trobe University


In the years from 1845 to 1849, the potato crop in Ireland was afflicted by recurrent disease, effectively obliterating the staple diet for much of the population. Historians disagree about the number of deaths and other details, but several million people died; many emigrated, often dying on the journey; Cecil Woodham-Smith's Tire Great Hunger. Ireland 1845-9 is a good introduction to the situation. The crop failure itself was aggravated by homelessness; inability to pay rent gave a pretext for eviction of tenants. Governmental attitudes were affected by notions of Progress and the need to reform the Irish land system, by the belief that the Irish had been most irresponsible in their population growth, by a conviction that Providence intended such sufferings.

Author Biography

Chris Watson, School of English, La Trobe University

School of English, La Trobe University