The Great Famine was a famine that struck Ireland from 1845 to 1852. It was also referred to as the Irish Potato Famine and the Great Hunger in Ireland. During the famine there was a great deal of emigration of people from the island. In addition to a lack of food, harsh penal laws were enforced against Catholics. Some of the reasons for the famine included cold, damp and windy weather.
The origins of the potato in Ireland
During the Irish Potato Famine, a significant proportion of the population was near starvation. This was one of the largest famines in Europe in the nineteenth century. During this period, almost a million people died.
The potato was not native to Ireland, but arrived there in the 1500s. The Spanish conquistadors discovered it in south America and brought it back to Spain. Soon, it became a staple crop. It was an important food source for the rapidly growing population.
As the population grew, so did the demand for potatoes. By the end of the 18th century, the potato was a staple in much of Europe.
A typical family consumed eight pounds of potatoes a day. This provided about 80 percent of the calories necessary to sustain a person. In addition, potato also provided carbohydrates and minerals.
Lack of working mills
The Irish Potato Famine was an event that had a large impact on Ireland. During the 1840s, almost one in eight people in Ireland died from hunger and disease. It was the result of a series of factors.
The first and most obvious reason was the failure of the potato crop. This was not the first time that this happened. In fact, the crop failed twice in the 1840s.
Phytophthora infestans was the culprit. The disease causes potatoes to rot. Rotting can be as small as 15 mm deep, and can cause great losses in storage.
Another factor that played a major role in the famine was the British government’s refusal to bar exports of food from Ireland. This contributed to the campaign for independence.
Cold, damp and windy weather
Irish Potato Famine is considered one of the worst famines in Europe. In the 1840s, the country suffered from starvation and a massive death toll of nearly a million people.
Irish farmers relied on the potato crop for food, especially during times of low grain supply. During the famine, a large number of emigrants left the country. Some landed in North America, while others remained in Ireland.
The blight was an infection that affected the potato plant. The fungus, Phytopthora infestans, attacked the potato plants and caused rotting. It was carried by cool, damp weather. Spores infecting the potato plants multiplied and spread.
When the fungus spread to the potatoes, the tubers were mushy and blackened. The disease destroyed three-quarters of the potato crop in 1845, and the crop was only partly recovered in 1846 and 1849.
Harsh penal laws on Irish Catholics
The Irish potato famine, which lasted from 1845 to 1850, caused immense suffering for all citizens on the island of Ireland. It left a lasting impact on Irish society.
One million people died during the famine. Most of them were Catholics. But, the impacts on different classes varied. In many areas, people starved to death while in others, small food crises were experienced.
The famine resulted in the development of nationalist groups in Ireland. These were inspired by the wave of revolutions in Europe in the mid-1800s. However, most of the Irish were still second-class citizens.
Irish society was dominated by large landowners. Many were absentee landlords, who left the management of their estates to agents. Their tenants were forced to pay high rents. As a result, many evictions were carried out.
Emigration to escape the famine
The Irish Potato Famine was a devastating event for the people of Ireland. It caused the death of almost one million people. During the period of the famine, another one million people had to flee for safety.
Those who left were mainly poor peasants from rural counties. Several factors contributed to the famine, including poverty, disease, and poor food. Among the most important factors were absentee landlordism, single-crop dependence, and government policies.
Most emigrants left Ireland for North America or Great Britain. Others went to Australia. By 1921, 4.5 million people had fled Ireland.
Throughout the twentieth century, the suffering from the famine continued. Many people reunited with relatives who had fled during the famine.
In addition, many Irish immigrants found careers in business and law. Their descendants have become a vital part of American culture.