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Reforming food in post-Famine IrelandMedicine, science and improvement, 18451922$
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Ian Miller

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780719088865

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719088865.001.0001

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The decaying post-Famine body: tea, bread and nutritional decline

The decaying post-Famine body: tea, bread and nutritional decline

(p.85) 4 The decaying post-Famine body: tea, bread and nutritional decline
Reforming food in post-Famine Ireland

Ian Miller

Manchester University Press

Did the Irish diet improve following the Famine? This culturally charged question troubled many late nineteenth-century contemporaries who referred back to the pre-Famine era as one when the Irish populace had enjoyed fuller nutritional health. In contrast, for critics, the poor had since existed in an unremitting condition of physical and psychological decay that seemed to be perpetually worsening. The commercialised economic system that evolved after the Famine differed profoundly from that predicted in the sanguine hopes of political economists and scientists who had idyllically envisioned a self-sufficient post-Famine population producing and consuming vegetables, meat and crops to attain the high levels of nutrition once obtained from the potato. This chapter identifies ongoing concern about food consumption and posits that physicians and other actors continued to problematise the Irish body through the lens of dietary intake long after the Famine. The decline of Ireland's mono-crop culture produced new sets of food discourses that were drawn upon to explain a lack of socio-economic development. As a case study, this chapter focuses on the problem of excessive tea drinking in post-Famine Ireland; a problem associated with rising national levels of insanity and physical degeneration among the poor.

Keywords:   History of tea drinking, History of degeneration in Ireland, Irish history of medicine, History of Irish mental illness, Post-Famine economic change, Poverty and food in Ireland

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