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The Irish Famine

Satisfactory Essays
In the six years from 1845 to 1851 the Irish Famine caused approximately one million deaths from a population of eight and a half million. It is during this period that two million Irish people emigrated with a further three million emigrating in the subsequent 50 years. Historians including Ó Gráda illustrate the longevity and significance of the Famine on Irish society, showing how the event shaped Ireland both economically and indeed politically. Although the Irish famine was not the most devastating of famines, compared to those which occurred in China 1957-62, in Bengal in 1943 and in the Ukraine in the 1930’s, which eclipse it in terms of mortality. Nonetheless, the Irish famine is unique as the proportion of the population who either died or who were forced to escape from its effects was as high as thirty-five percent of the total population in 1850. To this day, the Irish population has never fully recovered, remaining half of pre-famine levels, thus showing Ireland is still socially scarred even in 2013.
As a result, the famine is an event still discussed and debated today; influencing Irish politics and its position within the British Isles. Questions about morality and blame have led to historians to attempt to critique British and Irish response during the famine, whilst cataloging the short term and long-term consequences. Although most blame is primarily placed on the regional and national governments response to the famine crisis, the actions of the State do not provide an adequate analysis of early nineteenth century social structures which would shape Ireland both economically, socially and politically in the years before the famine. The establishment of the Union in 1801 led to a free market system and s...

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...sitive to the human suffering, which would ultimately lead to the Famine. Ultimately, the question of blame is not as important as the question of cause. Karl Marx wrote in his thesis that “Ireland was swept away by the economic forces that emanated from the most powerful and aggressive state the world had ever known. It suffered not from a fungus but from conquest, theft, bondage, protectionism, government welfare, public works, and inflation.”
Throughout Irish history, its people have been the victims of famine under English rule. Like a boxer with both arms tied behind his back, the Irish could only stand and absorb blow after blow and while it took many circumstances of British and Irish policy to create the knockout punch in 1845, it is clear the social and land divisions as well and economic structures inevitably led to the devastation of the Great Famine.
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