When the Potato Failed. Causes and Effects of the Last European Subsistence Crisis, 1845-1850 (Comparative Rural History of the North Sea Area, Book 9)

June 13, 2021
When the Potato Failed. Causes and Effects of the Last European Subsistence Crisis, 1845-1850 (Comparative Rural History of the North Sea Area, Book 9)

The decade that gave rise to the term ‘the HungryForties’ in Europe is often regarded, and rightly so, as one ofdeprivation, unrest, and revolution. Two events, the Great IrishFamine and the various political events of ‘1848’, stand out. Thisbook is the first to discuss the subsistence crisis of the 1840s ina truly comparative way.This subsistence crisis may be divided into two rather distinctelements. On the one hand, the failure of the potato caused by thenew, unfamiliar fungus, phytophthera infestans, which first struckEurope in mid-1845, resulted in a catastrophe in Ireland thatkilled about one million people, and radically transformed itslandscape and economy. Poor potato crops in 1845 and in thefollowing years also resulted in significant excess mortalityelsewhere in Europe. On the other hand, this period, and 1846 inparticular, was also one of poor wheat and rye harvests throughoutmuch of Europe. Failure of the grain harvest alone rarely resultedin a subsistence crisis, but the combination of poor potato andgrain harvests in a single place was a lethal one. Connectionsbetween the local and the global, between the economic and thepolitical, and between the rural and the industrial, make thecrisis of the late 1840s a multi-layered one.This book offers a comparative perspective on the causesand the effects of what is sometimes considered as the ‘last’European subsistence crisis.It begins with an extensive introduction that treats the topicin comparative perspective. The subsistence crisis had its mostcatastrophic impact in Ireland, and three chapters in the currentvolume are concerned mainly with that country. A fourth chapteruses price data to shed comparative perspective on the crisis,while the remaining nine chapters are case studies coveringcountries ranging from Sweden to Spain and from Scotland toPrussia. Throughout, the contributors focus on a range of commonthemes, such as the extent of harvest deficits, the functioning offood markets, fertility and mortality, and public action at localand national levels.Cormac Ó Gráda is professor of economics at University College,Dublin. He has worked extensively on the history of famines inIreland and worldwide.Richard Paping teaches economic and social history and economicsat University of Groningen. He has done extensive research ondevelopments in standard-of-living, economy and demography in theNetherlands.Eric Vanhaute is professor social and economic history and worldhistory at Ghent University. He has mainly published on the historyof the rural society and of labour markets in Flanders andoutside.Table of contents:Eric Vanhaute, Richard Paping and Cormac Ó Gráda, The EuropeanSubsistence Crisis of 1845-1850: a Comparative PerspectivePART I - The Irish Famine in an International PerspectiveCormac Ó Gráda, Ireland’s Great Famine. An overview - Mary E.Daly, Something Old and Something New. Recent Research on the GreatIrish Famine - Peter M. Solar, The Crisis of the Late 1840s. WhatCan Be Learned From Prices? - Peter Gray, The European Food Crisisand the Relief of Irish Famine, 1845-1850PART II - A Potato Famine Outside Ireland?Tom M. Devine, Why the Highlands Did Not Starve. Ireland andHighland Scotland During the Potato Famine - Eric Vanhaute, “SoWorthy an Example to Ireland”. The Subsistence and IndustrialCrisis of 1845-1850 in Flanders - Richard Paping and VincentTassenaar, The Consequences of the Potato Disease in theNetherlands 1845-1860: a Regional Approach - Hans H. Bass, TheCrisis in Prussia - Gunter Mahlerwein, The Consequences of thePotato Blight in South Germany - Nadine Vivier, The Crisis inFrance. A Memorable Crisis But Not a Potato Crisis - Jean MichelChevet and Cormac Ó Gráda, Crisis: What Crisis? Prices andMortality in Mid-Nineteenth Century France - Pedro Díaz Marín,Subsistence Crisis and Popular Protest in Spain. The Motines of1847- Ingrid Henriksen, A Disaster Seen From the Periphery. TheCase of Denmark - Carl-Johan Gadd, On the Edge of a Crisis: Swedenin the 1840s