Potato Famine Essay

1386 words - 6 pages

In this paper I will be talking about The great potato famine and it’s effects on Ireland. The great potato famine started in Ireland in the summer of 1845 and ended in 1852. It killed around 1 million people and forced over 2 million people to move out of Ireland. The potato was their main food source, so starvation was a huge factor. When the potatoes became infected people started to get what was called the “Famine Fever”. To better understand this I will also be explaining the history of Ireland along with the history of the potato. The Effects of the famine permanently changed Ireland’s -demographic, political and cultural landscape.

The Potato blight did not originate in Ireland. It was discovered in the USA in 1843 and in Canada in 1844. It is thought to have travelled to Europe on trade ships that lead to the blight in Europe and then in 1845 in Ireland. People first thought that the famine was caused by underground volcanoes or static electricity, but almost 40 years later scientists discovered that it was caused by an infestant called, Phytophthora. Phytophthora is a fungus that caused mildew to take over the potato making them basically turn to rotten curled up mush within a few days after the potato was dug up from the ground.

The famine fever caused symptoms such as dysentery, scurvy, typhus, and many infestations of lice. Like I mentioned earlier, the famine killed more than 1 million people. If people didn’t die with the fever they still had the chance of dying of starvation because Ireland really depended on the potato. Before the famine the Irish would eat potatoes with all three meals. Within only five years the population in Ireland was reduced by a quarter. The famine fever wasn’t the only thing killing Irelands people. Starvation was such a brutal factor also brought on by the famine.

Potatoes were so important to the Irish because they grew well in Irelands damp weather. People of Ireland became so hungry they started to eat the seed potatoes which left them with little to plant for the new crop. In the streets of Ireland it was an everyday occurrence to see children crying because they were so hungry. Due to the lack of food everyone started to look like wasting away skeletons. So many people were dying because of the fever and starvation that they were buried without coffins only a few inches below the ground.

During the second winter of the potato famine people thought that the infestation would have gone away, so they replanted. Sadly their fields were once again completely wiped out by the time fall came around. In 1848 and 1849 there was a second famine which killed even more people than starvation killed. Also in 1849 Cholera hit Ireland which mostly affected the young and the old. In 1850 the famine began to get better and never was to get to that level ever again in Ireland.

The Prime Minister of Ireland, Sir Robert Peel, secretly bought 100.000 pounds of maize and cornmeal from America...

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