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Irish FAQ: The Famine [6/10]
Section - 5) Was the Famine genocide?

( Part00 - Part01 - Part02 - Part03 - Part04 - Part05 - Part06 - Part07 - Part08 - Part09 - Single Page )
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Top Document: Irish FAQ: The Famine [6/10]
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	No.  "Genocide" is defined in the Shorter Oxford as " the
	(attempted) deliberate and systematic extermination of an ethnic
	or national group".

	British policy was anything but deliberate and systematic.
	The government did not prevent extra food from being imported
	(indeed the repeal of the Corn Laws had the opposite effect).
	The government did not force exports to continue: Irish farmers
	chose to export their produce.  Of course, armed guards were
	used to protect such private property.

	Imports to Ireland rose and exports fell dramatically as a
	result of a famine (see the table below, from Ó Gráda's book).

	-------------------------------------------------------

	Grain exports and imports 1844-48 (in thousands of tons)

			Exports	Imports	Net Export
			------- ------- ----------
		1844	424	30	+394
		1845	513	28	+485
		1846	284	197	+87
		1847	146	889	-743
		1848	314	439	-125

	-------------------------------------------------------


	Quakers and other charitable societies were not prevented
	from feeding the poor.	On the contrary, private charities
	were expected to provide most of the relief, as they had in
	1822 and 1831, when subsistence crises had threatened to turn
	into famine.  One of the charities, the "British Association",
	raised over £450 000 in Britain, including £2000 from Queen
	Victoria, not the five pounds of legend.  (Around one sixth
	of the money raised was used to relieve famine in Scotland.)

	(There is real doubt whether enough food was produced in
	Ireland during the Famine to feed everyone [even assuming
	perfect distribution].	A rough calculation shows that three
	million extra acres of grain would have been needed to make
	up the shortfall of potatoes.  Theoretically, there was enough
	acreage of grain to feed everyone if shared equally, but this
	assumes, for example, that none of the grain would be needed
	to feed the animals that would transport it.)

	However, there is no doubt that the governments of the day
	bear much of the blame for the number of deaths.  There were
	ideological reasons for refusing to intervene, but these had
	little to do with anti-Irish animus (though that certainly
	existed, as a look at some of the Punch cartoons at the time
	proves) and much to with laissez-faire carried to its logical
	extreme.

	The Whigs were strong believers in free trade and small
	government.  Adam Smith, the greatest economist of the last
	century had written "the free exercise [of trade] is not only
	the best palliative of the inconveniences of a dearth, but the
	best preventative of that calamity".  In a mixture of fatalism
	and complacency, they trusted the free market to supply food to
	the needy, or at least the most efficient distribution of what
	food was available.  Notoriously, Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary
	to the Treasury and most responsible for British relief policy,
	believed that the Famine was ordained by God as a Malthusian
	measure to control population growth.

	Russell's government can be justly accused of callousness,
	miserliness, negligence, ignorance, slowness, fickleness,
	complacency and fatalism.  Unlike genocide, this does not amount
	to murder.


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Ivan Brookes
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Dec 21, 2011 @ 8:08 am
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Ivan Brookes

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Top Document: Irish FAQ: The Famine [6/10]
Previous Document: 4) Why did so many people die?
Next Document: 6) Any references?

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