Revenons à nos moutons/patates

I would be interested in Cormac’s considered opinion on this.

6 replies on “Revenons à nos moutons/patates”

In due course, maybe.

The paper recalls an old controversy in the Irish historiography about the pre-famine population-potato nexus. Louis Cullen published a paper with the provocative title ‘Irish history without the potato’ in Past & Present in 1968, followed by Joel Mokyr’s ‘Irish History with the Potato’ in Irish Economic & Social History in 1981. Cullen argued in Boserupian fashion that population growth ’caused’ the spread of the potato, Mokyr that the potato ’caused’ population to grow. Good papers!

Hmmm… a link on Irish Economy… discuss… got to be that one right? … clickety…

That’s odd. Not Fintan O’Toole’s broadside against the ABSN committee makeup and his opinion as to their prejudices. An article about the potato.


Ireland 1840 8 million population 1940 5 million
England 1840 10 million population 1940 44 million

This is an issue thats very difficult for Irish people to analyse independently.

Amartya Sen’s famous work on the Bengal famine reached a conclusion that it would not be possible to reach regarding ireland’s famine.

Thats as much because of a desire not to be seen as simply engaging in bashing the political arrangement at the time.

Certainly bad history is history that pre-judges its analysis based on political theories; equally bad is the tendency to avoid the fairly central issue of Ireland’s position in the UK at the time and how Ireland was governed and the function that Ireland was expected to fulfill vis-vis the wider economy such that Irish exports of calves, livestock (except pigs), bacon and ham actually increased during the famine.

IS that a fair comment? That in order to avoid appearing political there has been a tendency to ignore the political causes of the famine.

Is there a review of what the population would be if the potato had not entered the mix; which is equally true of all european nations of course

Will we be having a similar debate as to whether starvation curbs population growth ir whether population growth causes starvation?

As big a problem as the potato blight is, I’d prefer to have a UN sponsored year of the potato than a UN sponsored year of starvation.

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