The Chemistry of Famine: Nutritional Controversies and the Irish Famine c.1845-7

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Title: The Chemistry of Famine: Nutritional Controversies and the Irish Famine c.1845-7
Authors: Miller, Ian
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Date: 24-Oct-2012
Abstract: The activities of Irish medical practitioners in relieving the impact of the Irish Famine (c.1845–52) have been well documented. However, analysis of the function of contemporary medico-scientific ideas relating to food has remained mostly absent from Famine historiography. This is surprising, given the burgeoning influence of Liebigian chemistry and the rising social prominence of nutritional science in the 1840s. Within this article, I argue that the Famine opened up avenues for advocates of the social value of nutritional science to engage with politico-economic discussion regarding Irish dietary, social and economic transformation. Nutritional science was prominent within the activities of the Scientific Commission, the Central Board of Health and in debates regarding soup kitchen schemes. However, the practical inefficacy of many scientific suggestions resulted in public associations being forged between nutritional science and the inefficiencies of state relief policy, whilst emergent tensions between the state, science and the public encouraged scientists in Ireland to gradually distance themselves from state-sponsored relief practices.
Funding Details: Irish Research Council
Type of material: Journal Article
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Copyright (published version): 2012 The Author, published by Cambridge University Press
Keywords: Great FamineMedical history of IrelandHistory of nutritionHistory of dieteticsHistory of digestion
DOI: 10.1017/mdh.2012.27
Language: en
Status of Item: Not peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:History Research Collection

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