St Patrick & the Slave Trade

This post first appeared on giffordmacshane.com on 3/17/15

Cowboys & Irishmen

Read any biography of Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, and you’ll find that he was born in the late 4th century somewhere on the island of Britain. Patrick was kidnapped while still in his teens, and sold as a slave in Ireland. Some histories place the blame on Irish pirates, while others blame the Romans who had conquered the island centuries earlier. Whoever was responsible, for six years Patrick was a slave, and then he escaped back to Britain.

Twelve years after his escape, having studied at a monastery and being ordained, Patrick returned to the Emerald Isle as a bishop and missionary. After twenty years, he left behind an organized church under the authority of the See of Armagh, and an island that was nearly completely converted to Catholicism.

Little did Patrick know that, over a thousand years later, those conversions would be the justification for a new…

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Western Trivia: Little Bighorn

June 25, 1876. Not quite the “massacre” we learned about in school. So many myths surround this battle, not the least of which is that all of the US Cavalrymen died, George Armstrong Custer among them, and that only Custer's horse survived. Most of the misconceptions are based on wife Elizabeth Custer's memoirs, which painted quite a different picture … Continue reading Western Trivia: Little Bighorn

Native American Trivia: Population Decimation

In 1492, when Columbus "discovered" America, the estimated number of Native Americans in what would become the United States was between 5 and 18 million. Historians estimate that up to 80% of population loss was due to diseases like smallpox and influenza, to which the aboriginals had no immunity.  A 20% survival rate of the … Continue reading Native American Trivia: Population Decimation

Irish Trivia: The Transatlantic Crossing

In the mid-19th Century, most transatlantic crossings were still done by sailing ship, although steamship passage was available for those who could afford it, primarily through the Cunard Line of Britain and the Inman line of the US.  A steamship would routinely make the voyage in 11 to 13 days, but until 1860, most steamships … Continue reading Irish Trivia: The Transatlantic Crossing

Irish Trivia: The History of Potato Crop Failures

Many people consider the Great Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852 to be an unprecendented occurrence, and believe it caught the country's government by surprise. However, the failure of the potato crop that began in 1845 was no stranger to Ireland's inhabitants. Crop failures had plagued Ireland in both the 18th and 19th centuries prior to … Continue reading Irish Trivia: The History of Potato Crop Failures