The Potato Famine of Ireland

Ireland was a jolly country with folk dancing and such. In the past, the main source of food the Irish relied on were the potato crops. Hysteria struck on the September 1845, when a fungus called Phytophtora Infestans destroyed half of the potato crops in Ireland. By 1846 it bought a near total crop failure, but two years later, the whole Irish potatoes nearly poured down the drain. Death rates doubled during the five years of the famine, and birth rates fell critically. 1 million people died from starvation, but most of all, disease. Emigration expanded rapidly between 1845 and 1870. Emigration was a feature of Irish society, there were at least 3 million Irish emigrants.

The political outfall from the famine offers few problems of interpretation. The Conservative administration of Sir Robert Peel

Evicted, by Lady Elizabeth Butler.

initially tackled the blight with some success, importing Indian meal and establishing food depots. Peel’s government fell in June 1846, to be replaced by a more inflexible Whig administration. The Whigs relied at first on an extensive scheme of public works, but this was abandoned in 1847, being replaced by soup-kitchens. The limited crop recovery in 1847 persuaded the government that the emergency had ended, and all special relief programs were abolished. This apparent British complacency fired later 19th-cent, known as Irish Nationalism. The great famine effected all aspects of Irish life, and it remains one of the most sensitive issues in Irish historiography.

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