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Review of Black 47 and Beyond: The Great Irish Famine in History, Economy, and Memory, by Cormac O Gráda

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07/30/2014Mark Thornton
 

Volume. 3, No. 2 (Summer 2000)

 

During the late 1840s more than one million Irish died and many more emigrated, with the Irish population not returning to its former level for over a century. Author Cormac Ó Gráda would appear to bewell suited to write about this tragedy. He is professor of economics at the University College in Dublin and is considered Ireland’s premier economic historian and a leading authority on the Great Irish Famine. Despite his credentials and the fascinating nature of his subject matter, this book will be a big disappointment for many economists. Black 47 and Beyond is a work of history, not economics. Many of the historical aspects of the famine are examined in significant statistical detail, but ultimately these refined empirical results paint no clearer or more certain a picture of the famine than the ballads, folklore, and newspaper accounts that the author dismisses. The important point to be remembered is that the free market did not cause the famine nor did the potato blight that struck around the world during the 1840s. Like other famines in history, the Irish genocide was the result of government at work.

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Thornton, Mark. Black 47 and Beyond: The Great Irish Famine in History, Economy, and Memory, by Cormac O GrádaThe Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 3, No. 2 (Summer 2000): 89–93