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The Great Irish Famine: Winners and Losers

Cormac Ó Gráda ()

No 97-23, Discussion Papers from University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics

Abstract: As a direct result of famine, in the 1840s Ireland lost one-fifth of its population through mortality and emigration. The loss makes the Irish famine, relatively speaking, one of the biggest on record. This paper examines its differential economic impact on groups such as landowners, farmers, labourers, emigrants, and merchants. The outcome plainly hinges in part on how markets functioned during the famine. The paper combines simple tests of market performance with an analysis of archival data to suggest that grain and potato markets functioned quite well during the famine, at least in the bigger cities. The finding that it is difficult to identify any major group that benefitted from the Irish famine, means that the Irish famine cannot be satisfactorily explained in terms of a purely 'entitlements' model. This is because such a model of famine implies a zero-sum game, in which there are both winners and losers.

Keywords: economic history; famine; markets (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: N33 O13 J10 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 1997-12
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Working Paper: The Great Irish Famine: Winners and Losers (1997)
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