Nick Wilson, "Political Ecology and the Irish Potato Famine"

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countryside, "William Smith O'Brien was said to have raised 20,000 men and to be marching on Kilkenny, and that…Carlow and Kilkenny were in the hands of the rebels, railway lines had been torn up, and Thurles station was in flames."51 These rumors served to provoke a massively disproportionate British military response, and 10,000 troops were rushed to Dublin during the height of the famine.52

More important than the British military response to the attempted Irish Rebellion of 1848 was its political and social fallout. Not only did it conclusively fracture the Irish repeal movement, but it also dampened "British generosity" towards the Irish.53  In short, the British government and many British citizens, particularly members of the upper and middle classes, viewed the Irish as having become ungrateful at the height of the famine, when relief was most desperately needed.

F. Conclusions: Political Ecology and the Irish Famine

Having briefly outlined the course of the Irish famine, it is now appropriate to revisit Davis to examine more closely his political ecology model. Generally, Davis argues-a la Amartya Sen-that famines are created by entitlement crises more than genuine food scarcity, and he provides three points of articulation responsible for reducing indigenous food security.

It should be noted that Davis' model is by no means expected to be a perfect fit for the Irish famine. Ireland was closer to the British Isles than was India, and the famine occurred during the early Victorian period during a time of less intense laissez-faire dominance. However, it still was a British colony that was subject to a British colonial administration and suffered from


51. Woodham-Smith, 356.
52. Woodham-Smith, 339.
53. Donnelly, 30.
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