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Irish “Potato Famine” of 1846-1850

The Irish “Potato Famine” is known as the most abhorrent and the most deplorable tragedy in history. The catastrophic number of deaths, which led to the immigration process, absorbed the entire country resembling the black hole. The reasons for the calamity arising from the extreme shortage of harvests propelled the population to endure great suffering. Therefore, the Irish famine was greatly predetermined by the abolition of potato cultivation thus becoming the tradition of the country. Certainly, this tragedy considerably changed the social, cultural, and political awareness of the Irish population.

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The rise of famine in the country was not spontaneous but predetermined by complicated political and cultural transformations at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Being under the power of the British government, Irish people were limited in rights and freedoms thus being on the edge of extinction. In particular, the country had no support from the government doing nothing to mitigate the horrors of the Famine (Rourke 2007, p. 41). So far, “potato culture was clearly on the increase”; it had deeply penetrated into the agricultural activity of the farmers. Due to the fact that potato was the main source of food and income, the blight triggered the deplorable situation in the country. The potato famine greatly changed the social and cultural landscape thus dividing Irish history into two parts. This agricultural disaster enhanced by the political instability and the negligence of the government gave rise to the famine plague (Rourke 2007 p. 42).

The “great potato famine” took over a million Irish lives and fostered another million to immigrate to America. The population of Ireland dramatically reduced by 8.2 million by a quarter (Davies 1996, p. 832). Ireland became the agent of death thus spreading the blight over to England. However, the deadliest consequences were mostly perceived by the Irish population as being fully dependent on a “potato culture” (Davies p. 832). However, taking advantage of famine, this period was also marked by the rise of robbery and fraud. The united groups were directed against the unjust government, which contributed little to the improvement of the horrible shortcomings of the Famine. Despite the endless current of letters addressed to the Government, there is no feedback that somehow ameliorates the situation.

Despite being the inherent part of the most powerful state of that era, Ireland received little benefit from it. The United Kingdom’s humiliating treatment of the Irish population ignored their numerous requests for help. The only help that people could expect from the government was the publishing of several reports stating “that we feel it an imperative duty to discharge our consciences of all responsibility regarding the undoubtedly approaching calamities…”(Rourke 81). The Irish administrative body condemned the government headed by Robert Peel, as it failed to grab the seriousness of the disaster. However, even when the British government managed to face the calamity, it was not succeeded in taking sufficient measures to restrain the destructing power of famine (Rourke 83). The negligence of the government triggered the outbreak of rebellions and agitations against the absurd policy of the Parliament.

In a conclusion, it should be stressed that the Great “Potato famine” appeared in the light of historical and cultural preconditions. However, the prevalent “potato culture” was, perhaps, the most obvious reason that sparked the famine. Besides, the attitude of the British government to the Irish population played a considerable role, as well.


Davies, N. (1996). Europe: a history. UK: Oxford University Press.

Rourke, J. O. (2007). The History of the Great Irish Famine of 1847. US: BiblioBazaar, LLC.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 21). Irish “Potato Famine” of 1846-1850.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Irish “Potato Famine” of 1846-1850'. 21 November.

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