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Why This Project?

Although the famines that took place in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Greece, Russia, Spain, and Ukraine between 1845 and 1947 occurred under different socioeconomic and historical contexts, the project seeks to foreground that they produced comparable transnational resonances and that their memories are also marked by significant similarities. As such, they offer a solid foundation for mutual understanding, and expressions of responsibility, reconciliation, reparation, and solidarity. Solidarity clearly manifested itself in relief schemes set up between countries, and organised by individuals, philanthropic societies, and transnational agencies. Examples include French Catholics who donated generously to Irish Famine victims, British Quakers who offered financial and infrastructural assistance during Finland’s Famine, the role that Swedish and Swiss representatives of the Red Cross played in alleviating the Greek famine and Dutch Hunger Winter, the hosting of famished Austrian and German children in the Netherlands after WWI and II, the Irish Inter-departmental Conference which supported relief distress to Central Europe in the aftermath of war, and the initiatives set up by Oxfam. Famines engaged and strengthened international networks from a moral perspective and beyond, as the humanitarian efforts that they instigated also served economic (trade) and political interests.

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Rowan Gillespie, The Departure (Famine Trilogy, Dublin, 1997).
Photograph by Marguérite Corporaal

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Nälkä! (2017) Exhibition, curated by Andrew Newby

HoH contributes to understanding and overcoming divisions among European communities by focusing on transcultural and transhistorical legacies of famine, and does so in two ways. First, it investigates and reassesses current educational practices in schools, museums, heritage sites, and surrounding commemorations about famine and hunger, seeing them as a specific dimension of Europe’s troubled modern pasts. Second, it will develop educational resources and recommendations intended to strengthen our consciousness of transnational legacies in heritage initiatives.