Let Them Drink Curry

The Duke of Norfolk suffered a ‘Marie Antoinette Moment’ on 8th November, 1845, when, amidst the Irish Potato Famine, the Whig MP proposed a questionable solution to feed Ireland’s starving workers: curry powder soup.


The Duke was met with derision, but the moment highlighted how woefully out-of-touch the English aristocracy were regarding what was about to befall the Irish people. Far worse was the attitude of Charles Trevelyan, whom Prime Minister Robert Peel had tasked with addressing the crisis, who callously attributed the calamity to a divine lesson from God.


In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly revisit the British government’s underwhelming response to the famine, from ‘Soyer’s Soup’ to ‘Peel's Brimstone’; consider the structural anti-Irishness in the ruling class; and revisit the UK government’s eventual apology… from 1997… 


Further Reading:

• ‘British History in depth: The Irish Famine’ (BBC, 2011): https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/famine_01.shtml

• ‘Why was the potato so important?’ (RTÉ, 2020): https://www.rte.ie/history/the-great-irish-famine/2020/0715/1153525-why-was-the-potato-so-important/

• ‘The Great Famine’ (BBC, 1995): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YfFdlGcl6o4


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The Retrospectors are Olly Mann, Rebecca Messina & Arion McNicoll, with Matt Hill.

Theme Music: Pass The Peas. Announcer: Bob Ravelli. Graphic Design: Terry Saunders. Edit Producer: Ollie Peart.

Copyright: Rethink Audio / Olly Mann 2023.


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