Irish Potato Famine

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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 outcome of the famine would result in hundreds of thousands dead, an failure of the economy in Ireland, and millions of emigrants forced to leave their home and country just to try to survive. The famine would effect countries other than Ireland as well. Some of these countries included England, America, Canada, and Australia.

The next five years, almost all Irish citizens, would have the hardest struggle that they would ever face. It would tear families apart, destroy peoples lives, and cause large financial losses to landowners.

In the early to mid 1800s Ireland was a very poor and difficult place to live. Most of the land was owned by landowners that lived in England and rented their land out to Irish citizens. The owners had almost no interest in their land and property in Ireland. They only cared about getting their money from their renters. The rents were overpriced and living costs in Ireland were also extremely high. The living conditions for the renters in Ireland were horrible, with one-room houses that were expected to shelter whole families. Another problem with the country was that over 70% of the population was illiterate.

The renters would use their land to farm potatoes because they were cheap, easy to grow, full of vitamins, and you could grow a lot in a small area and in poor farming conditions. The whole country relied on the crop of potatoes as their source of food and income.

In the mid 1800s there were many seasons that produced poor crops, and in some cases no potatoes at all. These seasons were taken lightly, and just thought to be bad crop seasons. After these bad seasons, farmers became upset and began to grow poorer quality potatoes known as ‘Lumper potatoes' or ‘Horse potatoes' instead of the stronger healthier potatoes. These new potatoes were originally grown for feed for farm animals and were more prone to disease, but because they grew in the poorest conditions possible, humans would have to eat them due to the loss of the healthier potatoes.

In 1845 a crop disease known as ‘blight' would be introduced to Ireland. It was a disease that would cause potatoes to rot while they grew. It was from guano, which was part of a fertilizer that was imported from South America. The contaminated fertilizer was also distributed to other countries in Europe such as France, Germany, The Netherlands, and England. It was responsible for thousands of deaths in these countries but was soon eliminated, as these countries were not as dependent on the potato as the Irish were.

The Irish discovered the problem when they found that they were harvesting black potatoes. At first they blamed the problem on poor weather, or insects. They just figured that it was another poor farming season. The actual spreading of the disease was that its pores were carried in the wind and land in pits where potatoes were to be planted. The disease would not die in the extreme winter cold and would double the problem for the next spring's crop.

The first year, the Irish only saw it as another crop failure because it only effected a third of the harvest. It was later that season that they realized that they were about to face a famine. The Irish government would not give out aid to farmers because they felt that it would make the country look bad showing other people that the citizens could not care for themselves. The Prime Minister told landowners that lived in England to give their renters some support....
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