Ireland Starves and Lives to Tell: The Effects of the Great Potato Famine “It must be understood that we cannot feed the people” (Kinealy Calamity 75). The mid 1800s in Ireland were characterized by extreme poverty, death, and emigration. The Great Potato Famine, also known as “The Great Hunger,” first hit in 1845; however, its effects lasted into the 1850s and can still be seen today. Prior to the famine, Irish manufacture and trade was controlled and suppressed by British government, which made Ireland an extremely poor country. Farmers in Ireland were forced to export crops such as corn, wheat, and oats to Britain, which left the potato as the main dietary staple for the people, especially the poor.
“We are talking about one of the greatest tragedies Of the nineteenth century.” -Ian Gibson Irish-American. To some, this term merely designates one of the many ethnic groups which can be found in the United States; but to those who are Irish-American, it represents a people who faced a disaster of mammoth proportions and who managed to survive at great cost. The Great Hunger of 1845 changed, or more often, destroyed the lives of millions of Irish, causing them to seek refuge from poverty and starvation in other, more prosperous countries. However, not all countries would accept these victims of the Potato Famine. After an immense burst of Irish immigration to Great Britain, the British Parliament began to halt Irish migrants from entering the country.
The Great Famine was historically dated from 1845-1851, although the effects of the Famine lasted until 1852 (Kelley 136). The major cause of the Famine was a disease called the blight, but there were many other aspects that caused the catastrophe in Ireland. The blight caused a catastrophic effect on the Irish peasantry. The blight is a combination of parasitic fungus and bird droppings imported as fertilizer (Kelley 136). Furthermore, the farmers did not know what a problem this fertilizer would cause, which ended up ruining all of the Irish crops.
The Fall of the Potato: Causes of the Great Famine Phythophthora infestans was the lethal fungus that infested Ireland's potato crop and eventually ruined all of the land it grew on. This time is called the Great Famine and has impacted Ireland due to its destructive extinction of the potato farms which caused disease, extreme poverty, and death. There are several circumstances to take into consideration when looking at the causes of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland. Due to the great dependence the Irish people had on the potato, it is clear how blight could devastate a country and its people. To understand the Irish people's dependence on the potato for diet, income, and a way out of poverty, it is necessary to look at several key factors that were evident before the famine.
Many people also blamed the British for letting the famine get so bad. These effects will be discussed throughout the paper. Starvation was one of the main effects of the Great Potato Famine, which was “unlike other subsistence crises” (Crawford, 114). The Irish people were very dependant on potatoes as a source of food. “The majority of the Irish peasants did not have access to the type of land or amount of land required for wheat (grain) production, and thus the potato became the crucial staple crop” (Braa 200).
The Great Irish Famine The great famine of Ireland began around the year of 1845, when a deadly fungus reached the crops, leaving thousands of acres of land filled with black rot, and diseased crops (Szabo). This disease has become commonly known as the blight. The blight was a “mysterious disease” that “almost universally affected the potatoes on the island” (Kinealy 31). This suspicious “blight” had traveled to Europe from North America, affecting mostly Ireland (Bloy). The blight turned the potatoes black, making them deadly for people to eat.
When the potato famine hit Ireland in the mid 1840s many people immigrated to New York where they were discriminated against and unable to find jobs because of their Catholic beliefs. The Irish faced many hardships in Ireland, and even more when they landed in America. Life in Ireland was very tough during the potato famine. They were under British control, and their crops were dying. The Irish people were very poor during this time.
During the mid-1800s, an event called the Great Famine happened in Ireland. This event was caused by the organism phytophthora infestans, commonly known as the potato blight, which infected the farmer’s potatoes and rendered them inedible. During this period, P. infestans left many people suffering or even dead because of their lack of food. This paper will go over various topics on the famine such as how it arrived in Ireland, the potato, effects of the famine on the Irish people, and the people’s dependency on potatoes. The Great Famine was a national tragedy for Ireland and caused mass devastation in the country.