The Great Famine is possibly the most pivotal event/experience in modern Irish history. Its global reach and implications cannot be underestimated. In terms of mortality, it is now widely accepted that over a million people perished between the years 1845-1852 and at least one million and a quarter fled the country, the great majority to North America, some to Australia and a significant minority ((0.3 million) to British cities. Ireland had been afflicted by famine before the events of the 1840s; however the Great Famine is marked by both its absolute scale and its longevity. It is also better remembered because it was the most recent and best documented famine. This atlas comprising over fifty individual chapters and case studies will provide readers with a broad range of perspectives and relevant insights into this tragic event. The atlas begins by acknowledging the impossibility of adequately representing the Great Famine or any major world famine.
Yet by exploring a number of themes from a reconstruction of pre-Famine Ireland onwards to an exploration of present-day modes of remembering; by the use of over 150 highly original computer generated parish maps of population decline, social transformation and other key themes between the census years 1841 and 1851: and through the use of poetry, contemporary paintings and accounts, illustrations and modern photography, what this atlas seeks to a achieve is a greater understanding of the event and its impact and legacy. This atlas seeks to try and bear witness to the thousands and thousands of people who died and are buried in mass Famine pits or in fields and ditches, with little or nothing to remind us of their going. The centrality of the Famine workhouse as a place of destitution is also examined in depth. Likewise the atlas seeks to represent and understand the conditions and experiences of the many thousands who emigrated from Ireland in those desperate years. Included are case studies of famine emigrants in cities such as Liverpool, Glasgow, New York and Toronto.
A central concern of the atlas is to seek to understand why a famine of this scale should occur in a nineteenth-century European country, albeit a country which was subject to imperial rule. In addition, it seeks to reveal in detail the working-out and varying consequences of the Famine across the island. To this end, apart from presenting an overall island-wide picture, Famine experiences and patterns will be presented separately for the four provinces. These provincial explorations will be accompanied by intimate case studies of conditions in particular localities across the provinces. The atlas also seeks to situate the Great Irish Famine in the context of a number of world famines. To achieve these goals and understandings, the atlas includes contributions from a wide range of scholars who are experts in their fields – from the arts, folklore, geography, history, archaeology, Irish and English languages and literatures.