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Searching for images of The Great Famine?

For the annual Famine Commemoration, the NLI shares tips for researching the famine

Monday, 15 May 2023
Ireland wrestles with famine, while Mr. Balfour plays golf

Ireland wrestles with famine, while Mr. Balfour plays golf (PD United Ireland 1890 August 23) 

Photographs of the Great Famine in Ireland (1845 – 1852) and famine victims are scarce because photography was a relatively new invention at the time.

The equipment needed to produce photographs was expensive and thus only the wealthy classes had access to it. Even newspapers and journals of the time mainly relied on drawings and prints to illustrate their articles.
So, when searching for pictures of the famine times, we rely on our Prints and Drawings and on the Ephemera Collections.
The example above from our Prints and Drawings Collection, captioned 'Ireland wrestles with famine, while Mr. Balfour plays golf' depicts a poor family.

The below image depicts another starving family. The parents lie on beds of straw, sick with hunger while the children are left to fend for themselves.


Interior of a house with holes in the roof. A family are starving.

Famine in Ireland (​​PD B52)

Many of our collections have been digitised, and can be viewed through our online catalogue.
The best approach is to chose relevant keywords such as 'Hunger' or 'Famine' when searching the catalogue online, and then narrow down to the range of years (i.e. 1845-1852).
A broader date range will also show results of secondary resources, such as books and pamphlets written about the famine era.
To learn more about the Great Famine of Ireland, join us on May 18th 2023, 7-8pm for a free online lecture to mark the National Famine Commemoration 2023: 'From Workhouse to White House: causes and consequences of the Great Hunger'.
Join Professor Christine Kinealy as she explores the causes of the Irish famine that forced over one million people to flee from Ireland.