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Reviewed by Sarah Stuart for Readers' Favorite
A Purgatory of Misery: How Victorian Liberals Turned a Crisis into a Disaster by Frank Parker and Patrick Lillis has a comprehensive introduction that places the arrival of William the Conqueror in Britain in 1066, continues through the government of Oliver Cromwell to the restoration of the monarchy, and the defeat of the Irish in 1798 by the British. That history, including the Protestants driving Catholicism underground, the upper classes taking over land, and the financial situation, is covered in greater depth, explaining why the Irish potato famine affected the country to the extent of starvation, or emigration to America. The whole book evidences extensive research into the basis of the Victorian Liberals’ policies that left the wealthy in charge of an empire whilst the poor throughout the UK died of malnutrition.
Frank Parker and Patrick Lillis’s A Purgatory of Misery: How Victorian Liberals Turned a Crisis into a Disaster concludes with Frank Parker summing up his personal views on the two authors’ research findings, and I found myself in agreement with him. I too have travelled in Ireland and admired the drystone walls, without realising they were built by starving men to enclose estates granted to the rich who had no right to them. A million people dying for lack of food in a country that ruled an empire is almost impossible to imagine… almost. Food banks, once restricted to a few big cities, exist in all UK towns. A Purgatory of Misery is a captivating must-read for all who care about equality and compassion in the twenty-first century.