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Irish Potato Famine

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Celeste Smith HST 112 Fletcher November 9, 2009 The Irish Potato Famine: Causes, Efforts, and Results The Irish Potato Famine was one of the single-most important events in Ireland's history as the impact of the famine was felt in every aspect of Ireland's infrastructure. Causation of the famine was widespread; political, social, and environmental factors contributed to the ruination of Ireland's primary food source amongst the Irish lower class, the peasants (Hunt et al. 2007, 733). Without this necessary staple, famine lead to starvation, disease, emigration, social disorder, and political mistrust. At the famine's end, Ireland had lost nearly one-fourth of it's population through death and emigration. Potatoes contain most important vitamins and minerals, grow well in poor soil, and produce a plentiful harvest. This made potatoes and ideal food source for Irish peasants, who could afford to produce enough potatoes to feed their family on small plots of land (Gavin 2000, Introduction). ...read more.


More than a natural disaster, the Irish potato famine was a product of social and political causes. Ireland was still under British Rule, which prevented Irish Catholics from entering into many professions and purchasing land (Guinnane 1994, 306). They were left to rent small plots of land from British Protestant landlords, who were more or less absentee and seldom visited their estates. These tenant farmers lived in cramped conditions, which contributed to the spread of disease (Gavin 2000, The Great Hunger). As the famine spread, it became clear to the British landlords that cash income would be greater if other products were farmed on their lands, which the Irish peasants could not afford to do. Thus, many landlords decided that to save their estates from ruin, the peasants would have to go (Gavin 2000, The Great Hunger). The inadequacy of relief efforts by the British Government contributed to the continuance of the famine, though this isn't to say they did not provide any effort at all. ...read more.


Donations and funds came from every corner of the globe; often times, even landlords attempted to help their tenants, deferring rents or providing funds for passage to America. As a result, hundreds of thousands of the Irish population emigrated to North America or other areas of Europe (Guinnane 1994, 307). The Irish Potato Famine was calamitous. By 1851, the population of Ireland had dropped by over two million, where an estimated half died from disease and starvation, (Guinnane 1994, 303). Hunger continued for years afterwards due to the reverberation of social and economic issues throughout Ireland. Irish language was lost as most of the deaths were poor Irish farmers and tenants, leaving many of the upper-class English speakers as the survivors of the famine (Gavin 1994, After the Famine). The distrust between the Irish and English was unshakeable and lead continuing discontent and rebellion, due to poor relief efforts, eviction of Irish tenants, and overall repression; many Irish were convinced that the famine was hardly caused by natural disaster (Gavin 1994, After the Famine.) The famine also led to a huge immigration in the United States. ...read more.

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