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Extended Audio Sample The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845–1849, by Cecil Woodham-Smith Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (300 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Cecil Woodham-Smith Narrator: Frederick Davidson Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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The Great Hunger is the definitive account of one of the worst disasters in world history: the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s. Within five years, one million people died of starvation. Emigrants by the hundreds of thousands sailed for America and Canada in small, ill-equipped, dangerously unsanitary ships. Some ships never arrived; those that did carried passengers already infected with and often dying of typhus.

The Irish who managed to reach the United States alive had little or no money and were often too weak to work. They crowded into dirty cellars, begged, and took whatever employment they could get. Epidemics, riots, and chaos followed in their wake.

The Great Hunger is a heartbreaking story of suffering, insensitivity, and blundering stupidity; yet it is also an epic tale of courage, dignity, and—despite all odds—a hardly supportable optimism.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Mrs. Woodham-Smith has made an individual contribution to Irish history. Her thoroughness in research, compassionate fair-mindedness, and gift of narrative are all again in evidence.”

    Times (London)

  • “A moving and terrible book. It combines great literary power with great learning. It explains much in modern Ireland—and in modern America.”

    D.W. Brogan

  • “A masterpiece of the historian’s art.”

    Robert Kee

  • “Her just and penetrating mind, her lucid and easy style, and her assured command of the sources have produced one of the great works not only of Irish nineteenth-century history, but of nineteenth-century history in general.”

    Conor Cruise O’Brien

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Karen | 2/8/2014

    " I have learned so much from this book about Ireland and it's history. A little heavy reading for me, but I like this type of book, even if it's a bit over my head at times. My eyes have been opened with regards to the misconceptions surrounding the Irish potato famine. Reading a historian's perspective is so enjoyable because you are reading a well researched historical account, and this author writes in a style that I can grasp. I would highly recommend it, really interesting!! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Katy Walters | 1/28/2014

    " This is such a heartbreaking and emotional read. It is also full of history, politics of the time and an indepth soul searching account of the suffering of the Irish people.It is a book that I keep close as my family suffered in that period. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Des | 1/25/2014

    " I didn't give this book 5 stars because I thought that it was amazing , but because it provides the grim truth about an event which is drowned in myth and which basically made the Irish the Irish. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Leslie | 12/28/2013

    " This is an older history of the famine (first published 1962), a good example of well-written general history. Its subject is, of course, thoroughly horrifying. What struck me as I read was how much history repeats itself and how little some learn from it. The Irish died not really because of the potato blight but because of insanely stupid laws governing land ownership and tenancy that were set up to benefit a tiny few and to exploit and degrade the many and were subsequently defended, even at the height of the famine, on the basis of the sanctity of private property and the untouchable profit of landowners (which their own shortsighted greed ultimately diminished or destroyed anyway); a grossly unequal distribution of wealth; contempt for Ireland, the Irish, and Catholicism, for a culture and a religion that were widely regarded as inherently backward and dangerous; and, above all, a blind faith on the part of government and the wealthy in the power of a free market and an insistence, in the face of all evidence and all common sense, that government intervention and assistance were always wrong ("government isn't the solution to the problem; government IS the problem" sums up their ideology pretty well) because it distorted the market, reduced the incentive for private enterprise, and encouraged dependence instead of manly self-reliance (sound familiar?). The free market gospel was mean-spirited, self-serving idiocy then, and it's mean-spirited, self-serving idiocy now. Perhaps this book should be required reading for complacent neo-cons now who spout the same slogans. "

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About the Author

Cecil Blanche Woodam-Smith (1896-1977) was a British historian and biographer. She wrote four popular history books, each dealing with a different aspect of the Victorian era.