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“The judgement of God on an indolent and unself-reliant people”?: the impact of the Great Irish Famine on Ireland’s religious demography

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>01/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Historical Geography
Number of pages12
Pages (from-to)76-87
Early online date19/10/15
<mark>Original language</mark>English


It has suited both sides of Ireland’s religious and political divide to portray the Great Famine that affected Ireland in the late 1840s as primarily affecting the Catholic population. However, while the geographies of the Famine have been explored in detail in recent years its religious dimensions have been largely ignored, albeit with a few exceptions. As a consequence, the assumption that Great Famine was a Catholic famine has not been sufficiently challenged. Drawing on a relatively untapped source, the 1834 Commission on ‘the state of religion and other instruction in Ireland,’ as well as census data, this paper explore the relationship between religion, poverty and population loss over the Famine period. It shows that Catholics were disproportionately affected by the Famine because the Famine was most severe in areas whose population was overwhelmingly Catholic. In more mixed areas, however, the Protestant population seems to have been at least as affected as Catholics if not more so. This conundrum explains why the Famine actually had a surprisingly small impact on Ireland’s religious demography.

Bibliographic note

This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Joural of Historical Geography. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Historical Geography, 51, 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.jhg.2015.07.001