Irish Potato Famine

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A drawing of Bridget O'Donnell and her two children during the famine.

The Great Famine or the Great Hunger (Irish: An Gorta Mór or An Drochshaol) is the name given to the famine in Ireland between 1845 and 1849. Outside Ireland, it is usually called the Irish Potato Famine. The Famine was caused by "the Blight", a potato fungus which quickly destroyed the potatoes in Ireland. Potatoes were the main source of food for most Irish people at the time.

The effects of the Famine lasted until 1851. Not much is known about what happened during this time. It is believed that between 500,000 and more than one million people died in the three years from 1846 to 1849 because of hunger or disease. Another million became refugees because of the Famine. Many people who left Ireland moved to Great Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia.

In Ireland this time is referred to as the Starvation. The potato was the only crop affected, yet Ireland continued to produce corn, wheat, barley, and beef. However, the mostly English landlords made a bigger profit by selling these food products elsewhere. Writer Chris Fogarty, places the numbers who died at about 5.16 million. Some legal scholars believe that under International Law, the British pursued a policy of mass starvation in Ireland from 1845-50, and that such conduct constituted genocide.[source?]

By the late 17th century, potato had become common as a supplementary rather than a major food. The diet was mainly around butter, milk, and grain products. Potato became a base food of the poor, especially in winter. The lack of genetic variability among the potato plants in Ireland caused the emergence of Phytophthora infestans which had devastating effects in Ireland. Another factor is that holdings were so small that no crop other than potatoes would be able to feed a family.[1]

References[change | change source]

  1. Mokyr, Joel. "Irish Potato Famine". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. Retrieved 3 March 2015.

Other websites[change | change source]