Cormac O Gráda


On his book Famine: A Short History

Cover Interview of May 24, 2009

The wide angle

I am an economic historian whose academic training was in economics.  For over two decades, I have been writing books and articles in the professional academic journals about the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s.  My interest in the Irish famine has been comprehensive, and I have written on aspects of the Great Irish Famine that range from folklore to historical demography, and from econometric analysis to historical narrative.

But while my work on the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s is most widely acknowledged, I have also been interested in famines elsewhere, and have written about economic aspects of famine in countries as different as France and Finland, or Ireland and India.

This comprehensive take is reflected in the book.  While the link between economics and famine hardly needs elaboration, writing this book about famines required appeals to other disciplines.  Indeed, writing Famine: A Short History, I invoked medical history, historical demography, folklore and cultural anthropology, cultural history, political science, and the study of nutrition.