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The Causes of the Famine (Ireland)

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The Causes of the Famine Jennifer Brankin 10-7 In 1845 there were eight million people living in Ireland and the fast majority of them lived on the land. There was scarcely enough land to support the rapidly expanding population. Family farms had been subdivided so many times that they were often too small to be profitable. One hundred and thirty five thousand families had patches of less than one acre. The typical Irish peasant existed almost entirely on potatoes which he grew himself on his on patch. To him the potatoes were as life itself. One acre of land could provide enough potatoes to feed a family of five for the best part of a year. ...read more.


The land simply could not sustain such an alarming increase in the population. Except in Ulster, there were no industrial towns which could absorb the surplus population from the countryside as had happened in Britain. Perhaps, if the British Government had done more to encourage the growth of industry in Ireland and enticed people to leave the land and find jobs and homes in towns some of the appalling misery of the famine might have been avoided. Back in the early part of the 19th century however the government did not consider industrial development as part of their responsibilities. Such matters were the concern of individual persons and private companies. In any case they were unlikely to support factories in Ireland which could possibly be competing for business with factories in England and Scotland. ...read more.


In the aftermath of a population explosion, too many Irish peasants were trying to eke out an existence from too little land. Each peasant was attempting to grow enough food on his tiny patch to sustain his family from one year to another. And they were all growing potatoes! The situation was a disaster waiting to happen. In the autumn of 1845 blight struck the potato crop throughout Ireland. Famine and typhus fever stalked the land for three years. The suffering and misery of the peasantry was horrible beyond words. Whole communities were wiped out. Those who survived emigrated to Canada and America in thousands. The population of Ireland went into freefall and over the next number of years declined from eight to four million. The cruelty of nature actually removed many of the causes that had brought about the famine. . ...read more.

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