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Global Legacies of the Great Irish Famine

Transnational and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

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Edited By Marguerite Corporaal, Christopher Cusack, Lindsay Janssen and Ruud van den Beuken

The 150 th anniversary of Ireland’s Great Famine in the 1990s generated a significant increase in scholarship on the history of the crisis and its social and cultural aftermath. Two decades later, interest in the Irish Famine – both scholarly and popular – has soared once again. A key event in Irish cultural memory, the crisis still crops up regularly in public discourse within Ireland and among the Irish diaspora. This volume, containing essays by distinguished scholars such as Peter Gray, Margaret Kelleher and Chris Morash, offers new perspectives on the Famine and its contexts. Addressing the challenges and opportunities for Irish Famine studies today, the book presents a stimulating dialogue between a wide range of disciplinary approaches to the Famine and its legacies.
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Declan Curran: Geographic Scale and the Great Famine

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DECLAN CURRAN

Geographic Scale and the Great Famine

Recent studies emphasize the role of spatial and social disparities in exacerbating the suffering and social upheaval experienced during the Great Irish Famine. This has found its clearest expression to date in the form of the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, which recognizes both the island-wide reach of the Famine conditions and the role of general political and administrative forces, and ‘highlights the diversity of local, county, provincial, and emigrant conditions and experiences’.1 Rather than speaking in terms of the geography of the Irish Famine, this approach recognizes the many geographies of the Irish Famine – the spatial manifestation of distinct yet interrelated processes such as Famine-induced mortality and emigration, relief efforts, economic activity, landholding and land usage, and agrarian violence, to name but a few.

However, this movement between, say, the local Famine-era experiences of individuals or families and the national political or administrative arena necessitates a rigorous interrogation of one of geography’s key concepts: scale. Specifically, this involves differentiating between geographical scale as a fixed set of units detailed on a map (for example: townland, county, province) and geographical scale as an ever-changing set of processes and relations that move fluidly across predefined spatial units. Why is this issue of scale an important consideration in studies of the Great Irish Famine? Its importance arises from the fact that what one may consider to be ostensibly national issues, such as policy initiatives...

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