Cecil Woodham-Smith talks about her book on the great Irish famine.

British historian Cecil Woodham-Smith explains how she came to write 'The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849' (1962). The book provides a history of the Irish famine the role the British government played.

Cecil Woodham-Smith's ancestors came from the Fitzgerald family and she has always been very interested in her Irish roots. When younger, she was involved in a number of semi-revolutionary societies.

Why did the failure of the potato prove so fatal in Ireland?

She explains that the Irish people had been reduced to a state where they lived almost exclusively on the potato. When the potato crop failed, it hit Ireland worst.

A catastrophe of a size which one can never exaggerate.

The famine changed the social structure of Ireland whereby many smaller absentee landlords collapsed to be replaced by commercial landlords who were in many respects worse. Cecil Woodham-Smith says that the great historical result of the famine was the foundation of Irish America.

To add to the lack of food, the structure of the Irish economy meant that much of the food produced on the island was exported.

Cecil Woodham-Smith also blames the English for their behaviour in Ireland, which they considered to be a blot on their otherwise fairly just and generous administration.

A Newsview report broadcast on 20 November 1962. The reporter is Anne Binchy.