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.
The nation was deeply devastated by this event both economically and socially. The Great Famine claimed over a million lives due to hunger and disease and resulted in the exodus of another million all in the span of six years. It is uncertain whether or not the famine could have been avoided, but the severity of the famine could have definitely been reduced. There were certain policies and procedures implemented by the British that set the Irish economy up for inevitable failure. Ireland had over eight million people during the mid-19th century.
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 blight turned the potatoes black, making them deadly for people to eat. Problems with agriculture came to an all-time high during the famine (Foster 201), and the crop most affected by this blight was the potatoes. The cause of the potato disease was suspected to be due to many factors such as: frost, winds, moon, manure, or thunderstorms; however, the trouble was actually due to an unknown fungus (phytophthora infestans) which caused mould on the potatoes (Kee 78). The Irish had experienced blights before this, but did not cause famine; this was the first case of phytopthora infestans (Poirteir 9). The blight was a major cause of the great famine, however; many other factors attributed to the tragedy that would forever change the great country of Ireland.
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 Great Irish Famine happened during the mid-19th century, and was caused by potato blight, which hit Ireland in 1845 (Grada, “Ireland’s Great Famine” 43). It destroyed a big portion of crops so it became “lethal” due to the fact that Ireland was very dependent on potatoes in their everyday meals (Grada, “Ireland’s Great Famine” 43). This led to a scarce amount of food and many died from starvation, or other diseases that resulted from the famine (Grada, “Ireland’s Great Famine” 51). In the 1800s, Ireland had already lost their own parliament, so “all legislative and executive power was therefore centralized at Westminster,” which meant the UK parliament of the British government was responsible for Irish relief in their time of need, especially when the potatoes failed (Kinealy, Death-Dealing Famine 41). The British government had many interventions in Ireland during the Great Famine, and the interventions were supposed to contribute to famine relief, and improve social conditions in Ireland.
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.
To provide for themselves in these settlements, most of the people farmed the land because that was what they knew how to do. The primary cause of this famine was a fungus-like protist called Phytophtera infestans that attacked Ireland’s potato crop, causing them to rot. Unfortunately, the people of Ireland were heavily dependent on potatoes, not only as a main source of nutrition, but also as a main source of income and export. Ireland’s land consolidation, agricultural laws, and their relationship with England did not help the people with this problem. The Great Potato Famine in Ireland was a terrible event in history that changed the lives of millions of people.
But how could losses to a single crop so dramatically alter a people’s vitality, as it did in 1840s Ireland? If the answer is their relatively extreme dependence on the nourishment of the potato, this begs the question: How did it come to be that so many people relied so heavily a single crop that they would starve without it? The short answer is poverty. The Irish were quite poor, especially in comparison w... ... middle of paper ... ...llan Press LTD. 1998. 51 –71.