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. Therefore, when the fungus Phytophthora infestans caused some, and eventually all, of the crop to rot over the next couple of years, the reliance on the one crop made the people of Ireland extremely susceptible to the famine. The effects were devastating, and poverty spread across the nation causing a huge increase in homelessness, the death-rate, emigration, and a change in the Irish people and country overall. One direct effect of poverty during the Great Famine was homelessness. “The total number of people who had to leave their property was around a half million” (Kinealy Calamity 218).
Because they could not afford anything else, the Irish were very dependent on potatoes. The potato was a cheap source of protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins that were suitable for survival. The substantial reliance on potatoes was one of the main reasons the famine was as destructive as it was. It started in the summer of 1845, when the blight was first discovered. It sickened all of Ireland’s potato crop and the vast majority of the Irish people depended solely on potatoes.
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.
Ireland: A History. Little Brown and Company: Boston, Toronto, 1980. Kinealy, Christine. This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine. Gill and MacMillan: New York, 1995.
In the early 1800s life in Ireland wasn’t easy, Irish citizens got by day to day by farming and relying on the potato. The potato was their main source of food and money. With out the potato the Irish would have nothing. No one was prepared for what was about to happen in 1845, the beginning of the Great Irish Potato Famine. The Irish Potato Famine was the worst tragedy in the history of Ireland.
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 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.
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.
“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.
When this particular blight, containing the fungus phytophthora infestans, struck the potatoes, it killed the tuber of the plant and potatoes all throughout Ireland began to rot. The blight also hit the rest of Europe and America however, these countries were not as dependent on the potato crop as was Ireland, so it was a mere annoyance to people (Beaumont, 383). This huge fall in potato crops created a catastrophic problem. The potato had been the ideal food for the hugely poor rural population of Ireland. No other crop could be produced as quickly as the potato and in such high numbers.