Publication Date: March 12, 2024
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From the award-winning author of Five Points and City of Dreams, a breathtaking new history of the first generation of Irish immigrants to arrive in the United States after the Great Potato Famine, showing how their strivings in and beyond New York exemplify the astonishing tenacity and improbable triumph of Irish America.
In 1845, a fungus began to eradicate Ireland’s potato crop, triggering a famine that would result in the deaths of one million Irish men, women, and children—and paving the way for one million more to flee for America. Ten years later, the United States had been transformed by this stupendous Atlantic port; by 1855, roughly one quarter of all adults living in Manhattan were immigrants who had escaped the hunger in Ireland. These so-called “Famine Irish” were the forebears of four U.S. presidents (including Joe Biden) yet at the time they were consigned to the lowest-paying jobs and subjected to the acrimony and ridicule of their new countrymen; even today, the popular perception of them is one of destitution, helplessness, and despair. But the Famine Irish themselves told a different story.
In this magisterial work of storytelling and scholarship, acclaimed historian Tyler Anbinder presents for the first time this generation’s individual and collective tales of struggle, perseverance, and triumph. Drawing on untapped documents and an astonishing ten-year, NEH-backed research initiative, Anbinder reclaims the narratives of the cohort of refugees who entered New York City in the 1850s on their way to reshaping the nation. Plentiful Country is a tour de force—a book that rescues the Famine immigrants from the margins of history and restores them to their rightful place at the center of the American story.
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