Irish Potato Famine Essay

1119 words - 4 pages

Irish Potato Famine Cronin 1 Throughout the ordeal of the Irish Potato Famine, c. 1845 - 1850, people throughout the world formed many different views on the situation. Those views formed mainly through information fed to world news agencies by the British government, the ruling power in Ireland at the time. While the Irish starved for lack of food and medical aid, the English government looked on with callous disinterest. English families feasted on Irish-grown grains and wheat, as well as sheep, calves and swine exported from Ireland. Meanwhile, the rest of the world ignorantly believed there was nothing they could do, because that is how the English wanted it.Americans today generally view the history of An Gorta Mor ("The Great Hunger") through cultural lenses, which tend to distort the realities of history as often as they magnify elements of truth. These lenses develop as a result of the normal processes of story telling, both oral and written, passed down from generation to generation.The images these lenses project however, can be focused on certain aspects of that history by political organizations with agendas to cover. Therefore, in an examination of the "famine", one must begin with the facts. Once the facts have been revealed, one may move to explore the truth (or falsity) of the history which developed around the circumstances. This information can lead to a sound judgment in this scenario.The world was lead to believe that the Irish famine was caused solely by a blight, "which destroyed the potato crop, the food on which more than half the population lived." Much of the world perceived the situation to be a great, albeit unavoidable tragedy; the use of the word "famine" in most news reports (fed to agencies by British) cast the impression of a complete lack of food within the country. True, the potato was the staple food for most Irish families. Not only was it cheap, but it "could be grown on small plots and not detract from the payments due the landlord for cash crops." However, while the potato crop was wiped out, the exporting of Irish crops to England continued at a shocking rate. The following figures are for 1845, at the start of the blight: Cronin 2 2,245,772 quarters of grain 2,481,584 hundred weights of flour and meal 372, 719 quarters of wheat 1,422,370 hundred weights of flour and wheatmeal Additionally, in the last three months of 1845, when the great hunger reached devastating levels, animal exports also continued: 32,833 oxen 583 calves 32,576 sheep and lambs 104,141 swine Ireland did not "starve for want of potatoes, it starved because its food, 30 to 40 shiploads per day, was removed at gunpoint by 200,000 British soldiers, organized into Food Removal Regiments!" At the time, Queen Victoria's economist, Nassau Senior expressed his fear that the genocide as planned: "Will kill only one million Irish, and that will scarcely be enough to do much good." In actuality, a million and a half men, women and children were...

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