• Unhappy and wretched creatures - Charity, poor relief and pauper removal in Britain and Ireland during the Great Famine, 1847-50

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    Embargo ends: 31/12/99

During the Great Famine (1845-51) hundreds of thousands of Irish refugees fled to Britain, escaping the hunger and disease afflicting their homeland. Many made new lives there, but others were subsequently shipped back to Ireland by poor law authorities under the laws of Settlement and Removal. This article explores the coping strategies of the Famine Irish in Britain, and the responses of poor law authorities to the inflow of refugees with a particular focus on their use of removal. We argue that British poor law unions in areas heavily affected by the refugee crisis adopted rigorous removal policies, and that the non-settled Irish consequently only applied for relief when they required urgent medical attention, or after alternative sources of support (charity, employment, kin) were unavailable or inadequate. Consequently, the true scale of Irish hardship was hidden from the official record. The article also explores, for the first time, the experiences of those sent back to Ireland, a country suffering from the devastating effects of Famine. The controversial combination of heavy Irish immigration to Britain and large-scale removals back to Ireland created a tense political situation between British and Irish port towns, as both sides felt aggrieved by the inflow of destitute Irish. At the centre of all this were the Irish paupers themselves; uncertainty, dislocation and hardship was often their experience as a result.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe English Historical Review
StateAccepted/In press - 8 Apr 2019

ID: 750582