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The Fall Of The Potato: Causes Of The Great Famine

1487 words - 6 pages

The Fall of the Potato: Causes of the Great Famine

Phythophthora infestans was the lethal fungus that infested Ireland's potato crop and eventually ruined all of the land it grew on. This time is called the Great Famine and has impacted Ireland due to its destructive extinction of the potato farms which caused disease, extreme poverty, and death.

There are several circumstances to take into consideration when looking at the causes of the Great Potato Famine in Ireland. Due to the great dependence the Irish people had on the potato, it is clear how blight could devastate a country and its people. To understand the Irish people's dependence on the potato for diet, income, and a way out of poverty, it is necessary to look at several key factors that were evident before the famine. Factors such farming as the only way of life, rise in population, and limited crops explain why the people of Ireland relied on the potato. But not only do these reasons clarify why the famine hit the Irish people so hard, other important factors play into effect as well. By looking at the weak relationship between England and Ireland through parliamentary acts and trade laws, it is more evident what the causes of the Great Famine are and why it was so detrimental.

The relationship between Ireland and England played a major role in the causes of the Great Famine. Ireland became part of the United Kingdom in 1801 due to the Act of Union (Edwards & Williams 19). Under this act, Ireland was placed under "the jurisdiction of the richest and most industrially advanced empire in the world" (Kinealy 33). From this act, Ireland's parliament was abolished and became controlled by England through political leadership established throughout the Irish state. As a result of the union, Ireland was "tied hand and foot" to Britain politically and economically (O Tuathaigh 40). Loss of parliament caused the Irish people to not trust England and caused a drop in nationalism. Since England was quickly growing industrially, parliament made no attempt to improve or advance Ireland industrially; therefore causing the people to solely depend on farming which rapidly made Ireland a poor country.

During the pre-famine period, the Industrial Revolution was in progress, especially in England. However, as England grew industrially strong, Ireland was lagging behind considerably. Due to lack of natural resources and less industrial advantage, Ireland was forced to concentrate on agriculture (O Grada 27-28). Although Ireland was an agricultural state, there were some textile mills, cotton, and cottage industries. Yet these manufacturers were not successful due to the competition of imports from England (O Grada 29). The only way of life that the people know and can depend is farming. Therefore, the people of Ireland put all their focus on farming even though this source of income was not as dependable and hard to come by because of lack of good land options caused by inadequate...

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