Eating People is Wrong: Famine's Darkest Secret?

37 Pages Posted: 2 Feb 2013

See all articles by Cormac O'Grada

Cormac O'Grada

University College Dublin (UCD)

Date Written: January 31, 2013


Cannibalism is one of our darkest secrets and taboos. It is the ultimate measure of the resilience or otherwise of civilizational processes to extreme conditions. How common was cannibalism in times of famine in the past? Both the nature of the evidence for famine cannibalism and the silences about it challenge the empirical historian to the limit. After a review of the global historiography, this talk will attempt to assess the evidence for cannibalism during Ireland’s many famines, culminating in the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s.

Keywords: Famine, cannibalism, hunger, Ireland

Suggested Citation

O'Grada, Cormac, Eating People is Wrong: Famine's Darkest Secret? (January 31, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Cormac O'Grada (Contact Author)

University College Dublin (UCD) ( email )

Dublin 4, 4

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