The Great Potato Famine in Ireland

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The Great Potato Famine in Ireland Works Cited Missing Who would have guessed a simple crop, such as the potato, would have caused a major crisis in Ireland? The “white” potato, known today as the Irish potato, originated from the Andean Mountains. It arrived in north Peru and records state that they brought the potato to Europe in the second half of the 16th century (O’Grada 14). Originally, people thought potatoes were poisonous and refrained themselves from eating the crop. During this time, the monarchs of Europe discovered the nutritional value of the potato and ordered it planted. (O’Grada 19). By the 1800's, ninety percent of the Irish population depended on the potato for its’ significant calorie intake and as an export. In 1845, the potato blight struck Ireland, causing a massive famine. The blight was caused by a fungus Phytophthora infestans, which destroyed the potato plants (Kineally 64). People were left with nothing to eat and no way to make money to support themselves. Over the course of the famine almost one million people died from starvation of disease. Another one million people left Ireland, mostly for Canada and America. The Famine of 1845 in Ireland led to extensive emigration, agricultural conflicts, and a changes in the Irish language and religious practices. There were two ways out of this Irish nightmare, death and emigration. People began leaving from every port in Ireland. In 1847, two-hundred and fifty thousand Irish men, women, and children left Ireland and the rate of emigration was continuing at the same level and sometime higher for the following four years (O’Grada 78). This massive emigration caused a permanent change in the population s... ... middle of paper ... ...ch, because their faith was all that was left after the famine. Irish Nationalism continued to rapidly grow, uniting people through the Catholic Church. The Famine of Ireland left a devastating memory to all. The population decrease due to emigration, agricultural issues, as well as, the loss of the Irish language, play huge roles in determining the outcome and effects of the famine. "It is difficult to know how many men and women died in Ireland in the famine years between 1845 and 1852. Perhaps all that matters is the certainty that many, very many died. The Great Famine was not the first nor the last period of acute distress in Irish history. The Great Famine may be seen as but a period of greater misery in a prolonged age of suffering, but it has left an enduring mark on the folk memory because of its duration and severity” (Dudley-Edwards and Williams).

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