Something Else We Ought to Remember on St. Patrick’s Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, the Zinn Education Project is highlighting emerging scholarship that calls into question our assumptions about the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1852). Here is an excerpt from the article:

…Throughout the Irish potato famine there was an abundance of food produced in Ireland, yet the landlords exported it to markets abroad.
During the first winter of famine, as perhaps 400,000 Irish peasants starved, landlords exported 17 million pounds sterling worth of grain, cattle, pigs, flour, eggs, and poultry—-food that could have prevented those deaths.
The school curriculum could and should ask students to reflect on the contradiction of starvation amidst plenty, on the ethics of food exports amidst famine. And it should ask why these patterns persist into our own time… (read more)

Another article in the Daily Kos may shock us with facts regarding another disaster that befell the Irish nation– slavery!

We’ve all been taught the horror’s of the African slave trade. It’s in all the school books and in plenty of Hollywood movies.
But for some reason the largest group of slaves in the British Colonies in the 17th Century doesn’t get mentioned at all: the Irish… The English had been practicing a slow genocide against the Irish since Queen Elizabeth, but the Irish bred too fast and were tough to kill. On the other side of the Atlantic, there was a chronic labor shortage (because the local natives tended to die out too quickly in slavery conditions).
Putting two and two together, King James I started sending Irish slaves to the new world… By the 1630’s, Ireland was the primary source of the English slave trade… the exact same language and logic used to justify enslavement of the blacks was used to justify enslavement of the Irish.
It is something for those who think slavery was simply a matter of skin color to consider.

As for the Irish slaves, Cromwell specifically targeted Irish children.

 “During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England. In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, [Oliver] Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.”

For some reason, history likes to call these Irish slaves as ‘indentured servants’. As if they were somehow considered better than African slaves. This can be considered an attempt at whitewashing the history of the Irish slave trade.
There does exist indentured servitude where two parties sign a contract for a limited amount of time. This is not what happened to the Irish from 1625 onward. They were sold as slaves, pure and simple.
In reality, they were considered by some to be even lower than the blacks... Because Irish slaves were so much cheaper, the loss of investment from torturing and killing them was not considered an effective deterrent. In an ironic twist, this caused some to recommend importing African slaves instead for humanitarian reasons(read more)

A sobering thought as we’re sipping our soapy pints. Sláinte! Éirinn go Brách!

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