Food, the Emergency and the lower-class Irish body, c.1939–45
in Medicine, health and Irish experiences of conflict 1914–45
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The ending of the Anglo-Irish Economic War (1932-8) is often represented as a watershed in British-Irish relations. However, it was soon followed by renewed trade hostility. Between 1940 and 1945, Winston Churchill subjected Ireland to an economic squeeze: the price of Irish neutrality in the Second World War. While the length of this trade war has generally been overlooked by historians, the effect of this 'long' Economic War on Irish public health has been similarly disregarded. This contribution argues that the Anglo-Irish economic war resulted in the mass slaughter of Irish herds due to the removal of the British export market. Market disruption had a significant knock-on effect on Irish public health, particularly in the countryside. Similarly, the British economic squeeze of the Second World War ensured that Ireland's agricultural economy was denied fertilisers, feed, chemicals and tractors; modern productive aids that are essential to food production. The Irish government infamously introduced the 'black loaf' as wheat production wheat stalled, causing fears of a second Famine. Aggravated by a belatedly introduced rationing system, public health suffered.

Editors: David Durnin and Ian Miller


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