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Plentiful Country: The Great Potato Famine and the Making of Irish New York
by Tyler Anbinder
From the award-winning author of Five Points and City of Dreams, a breathtaking new history of the Irish immigrants who arrived in the United States during the Great Potato Famine, showing how their strivings in and beyond New York exemplify the astonishing tenacity and improbable triumph of Irish America.
In 1845, a fungus began to destroy Ireland’s potato crop, triggering a famine that would kill one million Irish men, women, and children—and drive over one million more to flee for America. Ten years later, the United States had been transformed by this stupendous migration, nowhere more than New York: by 1855, roughly a third of all adults living in Manhattan were immigrants who had escaped the hunger in Ireland. These so-called “Famine Irish” were the forebears of four U.S. presidents (including Joe Biden) yet when they arrived in America they were consigned to the lowest-paying jobs and subjected to discrimination and ridicule by their new countrymen. Even today, the popular perception of these immigrants is one of destitution and despair. But when we let the Famine Irish narrate their own stories, they paint a far different picture.
In this magisterial work of storytelling and scholarship, acclaimed historian Tyler Anbinder presents for the first time the Famine generation’s individual and collective tales of struggle, perseverance, and triumph. Drawing on newly available records and a ten-year research initiative, Anbinder reclaims the narratives of the refugees who settled in New York City and helped reshape the entire nation. Plentiful Country is a tour de force—a book that rescues the Famine immigrants from the margins of history and restores them to their rightful place at the center of the American story.
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