• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

The Great Famine

Extracts from this document...


What does the great famine reveal about the geography in Ireland in the mid 19th century William A Donald can be quoted as saying, "national factors cause crop failure but human beings cause famine". Over the centuries there have been many famines across the world, of which the Irish famine deathtolls pale in comparison. In China, for example, the death tolls of the famine of 1958-61 reached 30 million people. However, due to the population and physical size of Ireland, it is true to say that the Irish Famine was a major famine, by world historical standards. This essay will examine what the great famine reveal about the geography in Ireland in the mid 19th century. The proximate cause of the Great Irish Famine was the fungus phythophtera infestans, which reached Ireland in the fall of 1845. The fungus destroyed about one-third of that year's crop, and nearly all that of 1846/7. The areas most affected are shown in the map below One of the main causes of the famine was population growth. Clarkson estimates Ireland population in 1821 to be 6.8 million. However, by 1841 the census showed it had risen to 8.2 million. Although Dublin city contained a population of 125,000, most of Irelands population were rural based. ...read more.


Emigration was the most obvious demographic reaction to the difficult economic circumstances in the pre famine decade. However, a rising emigration rate and a falling birth rate offered only partial relief to increasing population pressure. Added to that, demographic adjustment was weakest in the western and southern areas most at risk. The result of this was increasing dependence on the potato. By the 1840s, poverty had reduced one-third of the population to almost exclusive dependence on it for sustenance. Indeed, Ireland's moist climate gave it a comparative advantage in potato cultivation, and potato yields were high. Its importance in the Irish diet, coupled with an inadequate policy response from the authorities, made the consequences of repeated shortfalls in the 1840s devastating. The mortality statistics of the 1851 census show that the Irish famine killed about one million people, making it a major famine, by world-historical standards as stated earlier. A regional analysis of famine morality by Mokyr reveals that the excess death rate was least in east Leinster, Dublin and Northeast Ulster. The population before the famine was estimated at 8.2 million, according to the census. Between 1841-1851, the population fell by 20% to 6.5 million. The highest death rate occurred in Connacht with Mayo the most affected county of all. ...read more.


According to Donnelly, the contribution of Irish livestock to the British market rose by almost 20 per cent from 1850-1880. Thus, dependence on the potato declined in the Irish diet. However, the area worst hit by the famine, the West, records the least shift from tillage to pasture. Cormac O' Grada puts this down to the fact that the West proved less adept at increasing livestock investment because of the persistence of small farms and lack of capital. The switch to livestock led to a consolidation of agricultural holdings in the second half of the 19th century and the emergence of a self-confidant class of tenant farmers, within a transformed landlord system. In conclusion, the Great Irish Famine was one of the worst human disasters of the nineteenth century. Partial failures of the potato crop were nothing new in Ireland before 1845, but damage on the scale wrought by the ecological shock of potato blight was utterly unprecedented. It had a huge effect on the shaping of Irelands future. It had a major effect on Irish culture and led to a major decline in the Irish language. As stated earlier, it had an effect on Irish family life and heralded an age celibacy. This essay shown how the famine has shaped the geography of 19th century Ireland. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE History Projects section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE History Projects essays

  1. Alexander the Great

    Four years after Alexander set out to conquer Persia he finally met the Persian king in battle. Alexander won. The battle was called the Battle of Arbela and marked the end of Persian power. Alexander became King of Persia, along with being King of Macedonia, Greece, Egypt and Asia.

  2. The Emergence of Universal Medicare

    With these two issues falling into place, our health care system seems inefficient. It seems inefficient now due to the rising costs and because of bureaucracy, the federal government will be bogged down. Due to the rising costs, everyone has to pay higher taxes to help implement universal Medicare18.

  1. To what extent was the Irish Famine merely an excuse for Peel to repeal ...

    The accumulation of these factors lead the Tory government of the time to introduce the Corn Laws, which taxed foreign corn highly, forcing people to buy British corn at inflated prices, in effect a protectionist policy creating a false economy.

  2. History Ireland

    were in on the agreement started getting more popular and more votes, from both Catholics and Protestants. This idea was a success in Ireland, even though it failed to reduce violence, they were working on it. Breakthroughs which this agreement made are getting united support for a government, from both Catholics, Protestants.

  1. Northern Ireland

    biased and harsh view of Catholics and what they do and think of Protestants. Even though in real life at the time it was Catholics being attacked and killed by the Protestants and the opposite way, The links I could make between sources D-I is that the Catholics are portrayed as the killer killing the Protestants and being murderers.

  2. Easter Rising

    This is called a partition of Ireland. However, people like Eamonn de Valera felt that the Treaty had surrendered too much to Britain and he openly argued with Michael Collins. 64 members of the Dail were favour of accepting the Treaty and 57 were against. De Valera resigned as president and was replaced by Arthur Griffith.

  1. Dartford High Street in the Mid Nineteenth Century (1840-70)

    Street was like in the mid nineteenth century because it gives information on the occupations of all the people who worked on the High Street. It helps us understand the function of the High Street, and gives us an indication as to how busy it was.

  2. Describe law and order in the late nineteenth century

    Also, keeping policeman/men at each point where robberies were mostly being commited, so they can be culprit can be prosecuted before he/she strikes again. By 1887, some forensic progress was made. This was due to a man named John Toms who was convicted of murder, by insidentally using the torn

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work