The Famine Ships The Irish Exodus to America

Edward Laxton

Holt Paperbacks



Trade Paperback

256 Pages


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Often through the words of the passengers themselves, this book documents the frequently tragic story of the mass of people forced to emigrate from Ireland during the potato famine of 1846-1851. The famine was the defining event in modern Irish history: more than a million people died of starvation and disease and another million left their homeland, traveling from all parts of Ireland to board ships bound for the United States and Canada. Sailing under conditions that were rarely monitored, many were denied the food and water promised with the price of their ticket. Many succumbed to disease, and those who survived faced a bittersweet aftermath as unwelcome immigrants in America. The Famine Ships tells a story of courage and determination that is an incredible chapter in American immigrant history and a crucial moment in the Irish-American experience.


Praise for The Famine Ships

"A splendid book."—The Irish Times

"A useful and attractive introduction to one of the truly portentous events of modern history."—Charles R. Morris, Los Angeles Times

"The defining moments of Irish history are studded with arrivals (St. Patrick, Oliver Cromwell) and departures (St. Columbanus, James Joyce). In the 1840s the great arrival was the Potato Blight, and the even greater departure was the multitude of ships carrying the nearly one million emigrants escaping the Irish famine to America. In this work, Laxton, a former newspaper editor, narrates the stories of these emigrants as they sailed for the New World. The work is a fascinating compilation derived from family histories handed down through the generations; it describes both the horrible conditions aboard the ships and the emigrants' boundless optimism concerning the freedom of America. This well-written supplement to the various works on the Irish famine exodus finally draws attention to the people and the ships that defined a moment in Irish and American history."—Library Journal

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  • Edward Laxton

  • Edward Laxton is of Irish descent. He was the news editor of England's Daily Express and Daily Mirror for nearly thirty years. This is his second book. He lives in England.