PP In September of 1845 Ireland’s potato harvest, a staple of the Irish diet, began to blacken and die. A deadly fungus was ravaging the potato crops throughout Europe.
In Ireland this blight caused a horrifying famine. The Irish called it the great hunger. It is seen as a turning point in Irish history.
Many Irish people regarded this famine as yet another of the countless devastating injustices they had been forced to endure under centuries of English rule.
The English settlers colonized Ireland and took possession of most the best farmland. Irish peasants were forced to farm land owned by powerful, and absent landlords, who supervised huge estates from their home in England.
The Landlords didn’t only demand labor from the peasants living on their land, but also forced them to pay high rent.
Irish peasants lived in desperate poverty.
Under British rule, most of Ireland’s farmland was used to grow wheat and oats that were shipped to England.
‘The potato, introduced from America, became the main source of food for most poor Irish peasants.
They could grow triple the amount of potatoes compared to grain, on the same plot of land. A single acre could support a family for a year. Approximately half of the Irish population depended on potatoes for sustenance. PP
That is why the potato blight, which struck in 1845 and lasted for years, was pretty much a death sentence to so many people.
The blight originated in Mexico, and came over by ship to France, from where it spread all over Europe. Turning the potato into a mushy mess, completely inedible. The blight still exists today.
Barley and oat crops were not affected, but instead of providing food to the peasants, the absent landlords continued to ship their crops out of Ireland.
Many peasants had nothing to eat, except grass, leaves and the rotten potatoes. Starvation and disease spread through the Irish countryside. Whole villages were filled with the dead and dying. Observers reported seeing...