The Great Irish Famine
Approved by the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education on September 10th, 1996, for inclusion in the Holocaust and Genocide Curriculum at the secondary level. Revision submitted 11/26/98.
DEDICATION AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This curriculum is dedicated to the millions of Irish who
suffered and perished in the Great Starvation. It is also
dedicated to those who escaped by emigration, and to the
great Irish Diaspora worldwide.
The Irish Famine Curriculum would not have been possible
without the work of New Jersey Senator James E. McGreevey,
Rutgers Economics Professor Jack Worrall, historian Dr.
Christine Kinealy, teacher Jim Masker, and author Liz
We express our gratitude to Eoin McKiernan, Fr. Des Wilson,
the late Dennis Clark, and the late Michael J. Kane, who
have shown us their Faith by their Works.
"Truth flourishes where the student's lamp has shown, and
- W.B. Yeats, 1921
Between 1845 and 1850, more than a million Irish people
starved to death while massive quantities of food were being exported from their country. A half million were evicted
from their homes during the potato blight, and a million and a half emigrated to America, Britain and Australia, often
on-board rotting, overcrowded "coffin ships". This is the
story of how that immense tragedy came to pass.
The necessary historical and political context for a study
of the Irish Famine is provided to you in the Teacher and
Student Summary, immediately following the Table of
It would be very difficult for the student to understand any of the six study units that follow without first reading the Summary. If time constraints only permit the study of one or two sections of this curriculum, the Summary should be used
first. Thank you for all your efforts to make this history
Prepared by the Irish Famine Curriculum Committee, James Mullin, Chairman: 757 Paddock Path, Moorestown, NJ 08057 (609)7274255, FAX: (609)866-9538, email: JVMullin@aol.com
ABOUT THE CONTENTS
These units follow the Teacher and Student Summary (pp.3-18):
LAWS THAT ISOLATED AND IMPOVERISHED THE IRISH: This section
shows how the Penal Laws, and the Statutes of Kilkenny, reduced the Irish to the status of disenfranchised non-persons in their own country, and it examines how “laissez faire” and repression of trade laws laid the groundwork for the Famine to take place. (pp.19-32)
II. RACISM: This section provides numerous examples and cartoon illustrations showing how the Irish, as well as Africans and others, were made into racist stereotypes. (pp.33-60)
MASS EVICTION DURING FAMINE: This sections shows the extent
to which eviction was employed during the Famine, the reasons why it was employed, and its devastating consequences for the
suffering people. (pp.61-69)
IV. MORTALITY RATES AND “THE HORROR”: This sections shows death rates in relation to Ireland's population at the time of the Famine, and gives personal accounts of Famine scenes to help put a human face on the tragedy. (pp.70-79)
EMIGRATION: DEPARTURE, CROSSING, AND ARRIVAL: This section
describes the conditions faced by the famine-stricken people at disembarkation centers, on board "coffin ships" and at quarantine stations. (pp. 80-95)
VI. GENOCIDE: This section gathers together several definitions of genocide, as well as statements made by historical figures and historians, and asks the students to relate facts, opinions and definitions. (pp. 96-105)
VII. POETRY: This section features a selection of poetry
inspired by the mass starvation in Ireland. (pp. 106-116)
The Great Irish Famine
Teacher and Student Summary
Bridget O'Donnell and her children
Human habitation in Ireland dates from the mesolithic (middle stone age) period, approximately 7,000 years B.C. The people are assumed to have been...
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