UCD Centre for Economic Research Working Paper Series WP13/02
Cannibalism is one of our darkest secrets and taboos. It is the ultimate measure of the resilience or otherwise of civilizational processes to extreme conditions. How common was cannibalism in times of famine in the past? Both the nature of the evidence for famine cannibalism and the silences about it challenge the empirical historian to the limit. After a review of the global historiography, this paper attempts to assess the evidence for cannibalism during Ireland's many famines, culminating in the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s.