I took a course at an American university called "Genocides and Crimes Against Humanity." We discussed many world events and sometimes struggled with how to place them into these categories. The accepted definitions and the collective memories of the different cultures involved were sometimes at odds.
fam·ine noun \ˈfa-mən\ : extreme and protracted shortage of food, resulting in widespread hunger and a substantial increase in the death rate
geno·cide noun \ˈje-nə-ˌsīd\ : the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group
Which word best describes the events that occurred in Ireland from 1845 to 1852? Which word encapsulates the cause behind the one million bodies, and the one million emigrants that would forever change this land and it's people? Are the words mutually exclusive, or should we use both to label this tragedy? Perhaps you think a different term is the best description.
This question has been debated before, and will be debated again, but it is a valuable one. Maybe you've never had a chance to engage in it directly. Please share your knowledge, opinions, and questions here.
You have to wonder where all the 'boatloads' of food shipped from Ireland to England actually ended up, since mainland Britain was experiencing its own 'famine' in the 1840s and the rural poor were starving. With typically English understatement, the government referred to the situation in England as an 'agricultural crisis'. Ag labs' wages were one shilling a week but failure of the harvests due to bad weather meant the cost of a loaf of bread was one shilling and sixpence. In Oxfordshire, for example, one judge went on record as saying how tragic it was to see up before him 'in this terrible season' so many respectable people charged with stealing bread. I suspect the government had as little regard for the English rural poor as they did for the 'troublesome' Irish. The end of the Napoleonic wars and the return of the fighting forces led to widespread unemployment and a string of disastrous harvests in the mid 1800s all contributed to the situation.
My own Irish ancestors were sent corn meal by their American relatives and went to the port to collect it, but the Irishmen controlling the docks made them pay a bribe to receive this 'gift'. It's a matter of shame, too, that there was no shortage of local volunteers to take the roofs off the homes of the dispossessed - and why they did this at all makes little sense. As for the 'Protestant soup', it is indeed true that many Protestant organisers of soup kitchens insisted the recipients should change religion, but luckily those running the Quaker kitchens did not. My grandmother always said her folks survived the famine mainly due to the benevolence of the Quakers, as well as the sacks of cornmeal sent from America, but also due to their making their own black pudding. She would explain that it is possible to make black pudding without killing your pig or cow, simply by bleeding a little it from the leg. A few sweepings of cereal or flour mixed with the blood and the sustaining mixture would be boiled. I'm a big fan of black pudding and have eaten it all around the world (Portuguese morcella fumado is the best imo), since I consider that, but for black pudding, I wouldn't be here.