The dramatic failure of the potato crop in mid-19th century Europe caused widespread hunger and distress. In Ireland the impact was probably the greatest, where a million people died and many more emigrated. In this book, Austin Bourke seeks to explain how, from being welcomed originally as a protection against hunger, the potato became the very emblem of famine. The text brings together the author's papers, essays and research spanning a 30-year period. It places the onset of potato blight in its European and American context and reconsiders the role of English ministers and their attempt to stem the disaster.