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The Great Potato Famine Essay

1291 words - 5 pages

The Great Potato Famine The potato famine in Ireland was one of the most famous famines this world had ever seen, and still is. It devastated crops, families, and even whole counties. In a farm-based society such as Ireland, they were helpless to stop it. This essay describes just how bad it got, and what was done about it.In 1845 Phytophthora-infestons hit Ireland. This was a new type of fungus that hit very hard. The fungus came and spread so rapidly that nothing could be done. A fully healthy leaf could be turned into nothing in less that a day. A test was done and in just 3 hours a leaf went from healthy green to sickly brown with many holes in it. But that's not all this horrible fungus had, it stayed in the soil through the off-season and the prevented farmers even trying to plant potatoes. Now normally this might not seem like such a serious thing, but the Irish had come to almost totally depend on the potato for all their food. How did the Irish sink into such a tight spot, The Potato was an essential part of the Irish diet. It is packed with nutrients and vitamins, grows quickly and in almost any soil, and can be harvested in mass quantities. It was also very, very cheap to produce and buy, and was able to sustain a diet on its own. By the 1840s, the Potato was a major dietary staple in the Irish culture; especially to the poor, and is by some believed to have influenced the substantial population growth that occurred during that period. The variety of dishes possible with Potatoes and little else accounts for a large portion of the Irish cuisine. This made the potato a very popular food especially for the poor. Also it's ability to sustain a diet on it's own was very appealing. As you can see in a situation where like this it was hard to depend on anything else. Though nutritious and delicious, Potatoes were not meant to make up an entire nation's diet on their own; they had faults that made total reliance on them impractical, and, eventually, disastrous. First off, potatoes lacked Vitamin A, an important nutrient to the human body. As alternative sources for Vitamin A, like milk and fish, grew scarce, the Irish people had no source for the nutrient. Also, as demand rose with population, faster-growing, more prolific potatoes, compromising the nutritional value of the food, replaced the more nutritious potatoes. Potatoes were expensive to transport, too, and spoiled easily. These shortcomings would devastate the Irish population when the potato supplies started to dwindle. Though many may argue that the English did far less than they could to aid the Irish during the crisis, there were some notable figures from the English government who had major influences on the courses of action taken to help. Sir Robert Peel was instrumental in the effort to help Ireland's ailing population. He helped to keep food prices down through the distribution of Indian meal, lowering the cost of eating for the poor. He also was...

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