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Lecture by Cian T. McMahon
December 3, 2021 @ 4:30 pm - 5:30 pm
Cian T. McMahon, Associate Professor in the Department of History and Honors College at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, lectures on “The Coffin Ship: Life and Death at Sea during the Great Famine” with introduction by Paul Muldoon, Princeton’s Howard G.B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities and Co-chair of the Fund for Irish Studies, as part of the 2021-22 Fund for Irish Studies lecture series.
McMahon will discuss his new book, The Coffin Ship (NYU Press, 2021), which analyzes letters and diaries of Irish immigrants who fled Ireland during the Great Famine. The Great Irish Famine occurred from 1845 to 1855 as a result of a potato blight that destroyed the Lumper potato crop, robbing more than one-third of the Irish population of its most substantial means of sustenance. According to RTE News, the national news and public broadcaster in Ireland, over a million people died due to the extensive food shortage and subsequent epidemics, and a further 1.25 million people fled Ireland, with over 900,000 Irish immigrants arriving in New York City alone. For McMahon, the standard story of Ireland’s Great Famine exodus is one of tired clichés, half-truths, and dry statistics. The Coffin Ship focuses on the journey across the Atlantic, an oft-ignored but vital component of the migration experience. His transnational history examines the dynamic social networks and connections to the worldwide Irish diaspora that the emigrants built while voyaging overseas. In his book, McMahon makes an argument for placing the sailing ship alongside the tenement and the factory floor as a central, dynamic element of Irish migration history.
Cian T. McMahon is an associate professor in the Department of History and Honors College at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he teaches courses focusing on society and culture in modern Ireland, immigration and identity in American history, and great migrations in human history. His first book, The Global Dimensions of Irish Identity: Race, Nation, and the Popular Press, 1840-1880 (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), won honorable mention for the Donald Murphy Prize for Distinguished First Book from the American Conference of Irish Studies. He is a member of the American Conference for Irish Studies, the Immigration & Ethnic History Society, and the American Historical Association.
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