The Graves are Walking: The History of the Great Irish Famine

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Media: BOOK - paperback, 416 pages
Author: J. Kelly
Year: 2012
ISBN: 9780571284429
Other: sketches, bibliog, index
Publisher: Faber & Faber

The Irish famine that began in 1845 was one of the nineteenth century's greatest disasters. By its end, the island's population of eight million had shrunk by a third through starvation, disease and emigration. This is a brilliant, compassionate retelling of that awful story for a new generation - the first account for the general reader for many years and a triumphant example of narrative non-fiction at its best.

The immediate cause of the famine was a bacterial infection of the potato crop on which too many the Irish poor depended. What turned a natural disaster into a human disaster was the determination of senior British officials to use relief policy as an instrument of nation-building in their oldest and most recalcitrant colony. Well-meaning civil servants were eager to modernise Irish agriculture and to improve the Irish moral character, which was utterly lacking in the virtues of the new age of triumphant capitalism. The result was a relief programme more concerned with fostering change than of saving lives.

This is history that resonates powerfully with our own times.

1. The Savage Shore: Three Englishmen in Ireland
2. The News from Ireland
3."The Irish Can Live on Anything"
4. Want
5. The Hanging of Bryan Serry
6. The Lord of Providence
7. The Great and Glorious Cause of Ireland
8. The Mandate of Heaven
9. A Sermon for Ireland
10. Snow
11. The Queen's Speech
12. Pestilence
13. Atonement
14. "I Shall Arise and Go Now"
15. "Yankee Doodle Dandy:
16. Catastrophe and its Conditions

3 Reviews
  • Very Readable - A Real Page-Turner

    Posted by Ross Hansen on 22nd Jun 2021

    I hesitated in buying this book. Some history writing can be quite boring, cluttered with dates and references. John Kelly has written a real page-turner here. He uses quotes but integrates them within his text to keep the story rolling along. If we really want to find out where he got he quote from, he has included over 30 pages of notes at the end, which may include a reference or further explanation. I have Irish ancestors who migrated to Scotland during this dreadful period, so the story was quite relevant to me.

  • A must read for those researching Irish family history.

    Posted by Bernard O'Brien on 20th May 2020

    A very good coverage of the conditions in Ireland leading to the great famine, and, the real causes of one of history's great calamities. In other words, the role of England in the famine, and what they could have done to dramatically reduce the death toll if they had acted.

  • The Graves are Walking

    Posted by Helen on 27th Mar 2019

    The information was well researched and thorough. Totally riveting in explaining background and unknown history in these terrible years. I felt like I was there, but glad I wasn’t.

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The Graves are Walking: The History of the Great Irish Famine


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