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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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Jason King: The Remembrance of Irish Famine Migrants in the Fever Sheds of Montreal

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JASON KING

The Remembrance of Irish Famine Migrants in the Fever Sheds of Montreal

On 18 August 1847, during their honeymoon, Herman Melville’s new bride Elizabeth Shaw recorded that they had visited ‘[t]he Convents, Cathedral and Parliament House at Montreal’.1 In their immediate vicinity were the fever-stricken Grey Nunnery and the Hôtel Dieu convent, the female religious congregations of which had been caring for Irish Famine emigrants in the city’s fever sheds for the past two months. Melville did not write about any of this in his fiction, but a few days later he accompanied Irish migrants on his return journey to the United States in a canal boat when, according to Shaw, he ‘preferred to remain on deck all night to being in this crowd’ – an experience which furnished the aloof self-image for his protagonist in Redburn.2 During their brief honeymoon, the Melvilles left more of a trace of their presence in Montreal than the tens of thousands of Famine emigrants who convalesced or perished in the city’s fever sheds in the summer of 1847. Although it is claimed that the incidence of ‘fever, suffering and death’ at the Grosse Île quarantine station downriver was ‘unique in the Famine exodus’,3 the scale of Irish migrant mortality was similar in Montreal and much higher for its host population than elsewhere in North America. Since the Irish Famine sesquicentenary, Presidents Mary Robinson, Mary McAleese, and Michael D. Higgins have all paid...

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