The Irish Potato Famine And The Population And Social Trends Through 1700 1850

1545 words - 6 pages

The Great Irish Potato Famine was during a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration through 1845-1850. According to the journal, “The Context of Migration: The Example of Ireland in the Nineteenth Century” by James H. Johnson, this caused the population of Ireland to decrease 20-25% and it did not stabilize again until the 1930’s. Although there was a potato crop failure in Europe in the 1840’s, one third of the Irish population was dependent on this crop. This was inevitable due to the sole dependency of the Irish people on home-grown potatoes and the population almost doubling from 1800 - 1840. The journal, “Spaces for Famine: A Comparative Analysis in Ireland and the Highlands in the 1840’s” by Liz Young states that “if the crop was poor or failed, families could not manage and to compare, 50,000 people died when crops failed in 1817-1819.” The Irish people could not sustain could not sustain their diet of potatoes because they had not the means to buy more seed or, indeed, purchase the land on which to grow enough potatoes to feed their rapidly multiplying families for a year. As families increased in size, their excess produce, that previously would have given them a means to purchase livestock etc., was consumed. There were many factors that were involved in this catastrophe. The main causes were environmental conditions, agricultural practices and climate conditions, economic faults, and social and political trends. Social unrest and the history of Irish poverty was the direct cause of the Irish Potato Famine and the sole dependency on the potato crop which inevitably led them to starvation.
It is mentioned in the journal, “The Demographic Factor in Ireland’s Movement towards Partition(1607-1921)” by Youssef Courbage states that it was recorded in an account by English travel writer, John Carr in 1806 that “living conditions of the Irish people were, at that time, insufficient and squalid, sharing living quarters with livestock and produce. The average family of around 2-4 children ate approximately 37 pounds of potatoes per day.” This shows again that this demonstrates that the sole dependency on one food that poverty is foreseeable. The famine simply overstated their conditions by causing low harvests over a number of years, therefore lowering population growth. Another document that is also interesting to look at is the satirical essay “A Modest Proposal” by the Irishman Jonathan Swift in 1729. Although this is written in the 18th century we get an early taste for the poor conditions Ireland was in. As stated by English100 Professor Molly Wallace, when this was written, England was very powerful and controlled 90% of Irish land. The purpose of the satire was to ‘poke fun’ at the devastating poverty and proposed the idea that they should eat children to solve their situation. This is important because although it doesn’t directly tie to the Irish Potato Famine from 1845-1850, we get insight to the history of...

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