Often considered a major turning point in Ireland's history, the potato famine was a dark mark on this country, leading to starvation and loss of life in a matter of seven years. The consequences of the famine exacerbated so quickly that it even led to mass emigration, furthering problems of disease, and overcrowding. Travel was something that was also unsafe during this time, only adding fuel to a fire that was already out of control.
Part of the problems due to the famine had to do with Ireland's government at the time and the lack of help from landlords, leading to economic instability on top of a very real and very serious problem. Poverty and overpopulation were the foundation leading to the brink of Ireland's disaster, with its roots deep in social and economic issues long before the soil and agriculture had anything to do with the Great Famine.
Landlord Greed And Unfair Laws Contributed To The Problem
The early 18th century was no kind to tenants following the guidelines in place by landlords, who were enabled by laws that were unfair to those tending the land. The balance between Britain's enablement, landlords, and their tenants was woefully out of balance and this led to tenants living in poverty with their families, unable to afford the cost of living. While families lived in poverty, Ireland's population kept booming, meaning there were fewer and fewer options for those seeking to make a living for their families and themselves. With landlords requiring more from tenants, the cycle was cruel and harsh and one that not many tenants could escape easily.
The Cause Of The Potato Famine Is No Longer A Threat
The reason that potato crops failed was due to potato blight, something that scientists now believe is completely extinct. It was a problem that grew increasingly worse as the first third of potato crops were affected one year, following the second year with three-quarters of all Ireland's potato crops being affected, and so on. The second year was the first that affected Ireland's population, as residents were dependent on potatoes for food and many lost their lives to starvation. While other European countries also experienced this loss of agriculture, Ireland was wholly dependent on their potato farming which is why the effects of potato blight were so devastating.
The Famine's Effects Were So Widespread That The Population Actually Decreased
The Great Famine had catastrophic and tragic effects on the population of Ireland. By the time it was over, it's estimated that one-million lives were lost due to starvation and disease, and that's not including all the people who emigrated to other countries in an attempt to escape it. When broken down, according to learnodo-newtonic.com, that equates to roughly one-eighth of the total population for that time. With 25% of the population disappearing over the course of seven years, and another two million people fleeing the country, Ireland was faced with one of its biggest turning points.
For those who fled the ill-fated country, even more danger was awaiting on the ships they took from Ireland, called 'coffin ships' due to their high fatality rates during the passage. The tragedy was occurring by both land and sea as people couldn't escape one fate or another and to this day, Ireland's population is still not nearly what it once was prior to 1845. Between the lack of help from neighboring Britain or landlords, the Irish people were faced to pick the lesser of two evils, of which there really was none.
There Is A Controversial Theory About What Was Happening During Famine Years
While Ireland was wholly dependent on potatoes and potato farming, there is some controversy about the events that unfolded throughout the decade. It's been determined that throughout the famine, exports increased greatly to Ireland, which led to tension between Ireland and Britain as the demand grew greater for Ireland's exported goods. Some experts claim that while there was an ongoing famine, combined with all the food leaving the country via exports, there would have been enough to feed the general population and prevent starvation from becoming an issue.
British scholars claim that while Ireland was exporting a large number of crops, the country was only importing a majority of grains, which wouldn't have done much in the way of fending off starvation or reversing the effects of potato blight. It has never been determined what the true story is here, other than the fact that Ireland was operating with a vast majority of exports that far outweighed the imports of food the country was receiving.