Friday, December 01, 2017


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Another feather in their cap for Four Courts Press. This time it's Food Rioting, no less, and James Kelly's book thereon was launched last evening (30/11/2017) in the prestigious surroundings of the Members Room in the Royal Irish Academy.

The book introduces us to a subject which has been much neglected in the Irish context and about which there had been many misconceptions, not least by the historian E P Thompson.

So James Kelly did what good historians do. He combed the sources and came up with a whole new story.

Cormac Ó Gráda

The book was launched by Cormac Ó Gráda, himself no slouch at rewriting, or I should more correctly say writing, history. Joe Lee has praised Cormac for his intensive milking of even the skimpiest of evidence to open new windows on the past.

So when Cormac is lavish in his praise of "Jimmy's" work you have to take Jimmy seriously.

James Kelly

It had been thought that Irish food riots in Ireland were few and far between. And this was put down to a lack of "political space" and, presumably, of leadership.

James has shown, on the contrary, that in the century and a half before the famine there were lots of food riots, varying in size from a few score people to thousands.

The riots posed a serious challenge to the authorities who saw them as an interference with the free market system which was their bible. Nevertheless, riots demanding more food posed less of a threat to the establishment than the agrarian agitation which was to follow.

So the food riots were met with more tolerance than their successors.

James scoured a large number of primary sources, but he stressed in paticular the wealth of material to be garnered from the newspapers of the day. These however had to be carefully and extensively mined and this called for a dedicated historian who was willing to be put through his paces.

Corrmac, James & Martin from Four Courts Press

Brendan Twomey & audience

Catríona Crowe & David Dixon

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