The Great Irish Famine of 1845–52 was the defining event in the history of modern Ireland. In proportional terms one of the most lethal famines in global history, the consequences were shocking: at least one million people died, and double that number fled the country within a decade.
The Curse of Reason is first and foremost a survey history of this great tragedy. In particular, the testimonies of four key contemporaries are used throughout to convey the immediacy of the unfolding disaster.
- John MacHale—the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam
- John Mitchel—the radical nationalist
- Elizabeth Smith—the Scottish-born wife of a Wicklow landlord
- Charles E. Trevelyan—the assistant secretary to the Treasury
Each brings a unique perspective, influenced by who they were, what they witnessed, and what they stood for. By counter-pointing the progress of the Famine with the experiences of these four individuals, we get an intimate and compelling portrayal of these hungry years. The book shows how misguided policies inspired by slavish adherence to ideology—the curse of reason—contributed to and worsened the effects of a natural disaster of catastrophic proportions.
Born in Dublin, Enda Delaney is currently Reader in Modern History at the University of Edinburgh. In 2010 he was the recipient of a prestigious UK Economic and Social Research Council Mid-Career Fellowship, awarded on the basis of a proven track record of excellence in research and ‘exceptional all round scholarly ability’. He has written extensively on the history of modern Ireland and its diaspora, including three scholarly books and two jointly-edited volumes.