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The Irish Potato Famine 1845-1848. Background on Ireland in the mid-1800s Ireland was a farming nation. 8 Million people Poorest nation in the world Only.

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Presentation on theme: "The Irish Potato Famine 1845-1848. Background on Ireland in the mid-1800s Ireland was a farming nation. 8 Million people Poorest nation in the world Only."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Irish Potato Famine

2 Background on Ireland in the mid-1800s Ireland was a farming nation. 8 Million people Poorest nation in the world Only ¼ of the population could read and write. Life expectancy was 40 years old. Many married by ages 16, 17, and 18.

3 Background on Ireland in the mid-1800s (cont.) Most of the farms were owned by the English ruling class. Poorer farmers worked in exchange for a place to live. –They lived on the farm. –A poor family would live in a single room hut. The Irish poor depended on these farms, and the potato, for their existence.

4 The Potato Peru introduced the potato to Ireland in A potato harvest could feed an Irish family of 6 for an entire year. By the 1800s, almost half the Irish population lived on potatoes alone. –3 million people

5 The Potato (cont.) The Irish grew a potato called a “Lumper.” They were planted in March and harvested in Sept. and Oct. This system went on for years in Ireland. In September 1845, the potato plants and leaves began to turn black and rot.

6 The Famine Begins: 1845 Many thought the rotting potatoes came from the fog. In actuality, the famine was a fungus brought on boats carrying goods. The winds would carry the fungus to Dublin’s countryside. A single infected potato could spread to 1000 more in a couple days. The rancid potatoes gave off a nasty stench, as they turned to mush.

7 Attempted Solutions A Relief Commission was created to help those who didn’t have any food. –The donations, though, stopped after a short amount of time. Prime Minister Peel was to oversee operations. –He took too long to make changes, and not much got done. Peel tried to distribute corn imported from the U.S. –Many got diarrhea because they were not used to it. –No Vitamin C in the corn (scurvy). –The first supply of corn was never replaced.

8 The Famine: Year Two (1846) The potatoes did not grow again in It got so bad, many began living off of other food items: –Blackberries, turnips, cabbage leaves – Seaweed, shellfish – Roots, weeds, and grass! Many began to die, but not from starvation. –Typhus, dysentery, fever, and famine dropsy. Not as many had died the first year b/c they borrowed money, sold off livestock, and had the imported corn.

9 The Famine Continues By 1847, soup kitchens were established, but they could not provide enough food. People began trying to leave Ireland for countries like America. –One out of five died on the travels over. It was not until 1852 that the Irish Potato Famine came to a complete end. –Many began to include corn and other vegetables in their diet and rely less on the potato.

10 Famine Facts 775,000 to 1.5 million died –¼ of the population Even today, Ireland is still affected by the Potato Famine. –Smaller population than Many Irish ended up in other countries (like U.S.) It was the single greatest disaster of the 19 th Century.

11 Lessons Learned: Diversity As mentioned, the Irish learned to vary their diet. The “Lumper” potato was the only potato affected by the fungus, but all potatoes were “Lumpers” in Ireland. Genetic diversity in planting is key. If they had planted many kinds of potatoes, the famine could have been avoided.


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