This book concerns Lord John Russell's efforts to improve the lot and status of Irish Catholics by changes in the landlord and tenant system and particualarly by improving the status of the Catholic Church. It is the first full scholarly account of the role of the Catholic Church in the Great Famine of 1846 and its aftermath. Donal Kerr shows how the Famine and consequent evictions led to rural violence and assassination, culminating in the notorious murder of Major Mahon, which the local parish priest was accused of inciting and blessing. A savage campaign of denuciation in press and parliament, and the belief that Pope Pius IX had blessed the struggle of oppressed nationalities, led many priests to become involved in the lead-up to the Young Ireland
Rebellion. These years, too, saw a sharpening of religious tensions as Professor Kerr's scholarly and incisive analysis charts the souring of relations between Church and State and the destruction of Lord John Russell's dream of bringing a golden age to Ireland.
Readership: Scholars and students of modern British and Irish history; historians of nineteenth-century religion and politics.
Donal A. Kerr, Professor of Ecclesiastical History, St Patrick's College, Maynooth
"Its strengths lie in its solid scholasticism and its author's enviable and incisive grasp of rich primary sources." - Fortnight
"a major contribution to the history of Irish Catholicism at a crucial stage." - Times Literary Supplement
"a welcome and worthy addition to this growing body of work. His account has much of interest to say about politics and society in general, but it also provides an indispensable discussion of the church's response to those terrible events."
"A book as thoughtful and scholarly as Donnal Kerr's on the famine is...to be welcomed." - Social History Society Bulletin
"This sequel to his well-received study 'Peel, Priests and Politics' deals with the ensuing half dozen years in great detail using extensive archival and printed sources." - Choice
"With this book, Dr Kerr, following his earlier and much valued 'Peel, Priests and Politics' confirms his command of the social, political and ecclesiastical complexities of Ireland in the 1840's...a work of consummate scholarship and masterly presentation." - Bullan
"well written...Its strengths lie in its solid scholasticism and its author's enviable and incisive grasp of rich primary sources." - Fortnight Magazine
"Kerr's examination of Russell's doomed enterprise is based firmly on a thorough consideration of both published and unpublished evidence. The book is marked by intelligence, insight and understanding. It renders a complicated set of episodes comprehensible and reclaims the Famine as the great political (as well as social) watershed of nineteenth-century Irish history." - K. Theodore Hoppen, University of Hull, EHR Feb. 97
"Once more Professor Kerr marshals his formidable grasp of British and Irish archival material to write a detailed yet broad account of what was arguably the last attempt by a British government to make the Irish Union a reality ... his fine book on these momentous years in the history of the Union does seem to bear out, in some degree at least, Sir Robert Peel's earlier verdict that 'an honest despotic government would be by far the fittest government for Ireland.'" - D.G. Boyce, The Historical Association 1996