Essay on The Great Famine of Ireland

Essay on The Great Famine of Ireland

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The Great Famine of Ireland

At the start of 1845, all was well on the island of Ireland. The union with
England gave the over eight million Irish the protection and support of the most powerful
and prosperous nation of the time, as well as offering a strong market for exporting the
more profitable agricultural produce. And the potato, the blessed potato, provided a
cheap, healthy diet for many farmers and laborers. The Irish loved their potatoes. In fact
for two-thirds of the entire population the potato was an integral part of the diet, and half
of them ate almost nothing else (Harris 2). All was well until later that year when
disaster struck; the cursed Blight. The years that followed were marked by heavy losses
in the potato crop, resulting in over one million mortalities and about two million
emigrants (Whelan 27 - 28). This was the last and most devastating famine ever in
Western Europe, and quite possibly the worst ever, per capita, anywhere (O Grada{II}
52). To this day Ireland’s population has yet to reach its 1841 high of over eight million.
Well, only some of this is true. The potato crop did fail and many died, but all
was not well on the emerald isle before 1845. One could imagine that successive failures
of a people’s main food crop would produce negative results, perhaps some starvations.
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.
Scally, Robert James. The End of Hidden Ireland. New York: Oxford University Press.
Strang, Jillian and Joyce Toomre. "Alexis Soyer and the Irish Famine." The Great
Famine and the Irish Diaspora in America. Ed. Arthur Gribben. Amherst: University of
Massachusetts Press. 1999. 66 – 84.
Whelan, Kevin. "Pre and Post-Famine Landscape Change." The Great Irish Famine. Ed.
Cathal Poirteir. Dublin: Mercier Press. 1995. 19 – 33.
Potato Blight., November 5, 2001.
Lough Sheelin Side.,
November 5, 2001.
Ireland's Potato Famine.,
November 5, 2001.
Interpreting The Irish Famine, 1846-1850., November 5, 2001.

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