A few days after potatoes were dug from the ground, they began to turn into a slimy, decaying, blackish "mass of rottenness. In fact, the cause was a fungus that had traveled from Mexico to Ireland. Observers reported seeing children crying with pain and looking "like skeletons, their features sharpened with hunger and their limbs wasted, so that there was little left but bones. Digital History Added by:
The Blight Begins The Famine began quite mysteriously in September as leaves on potato plants suddenly turned black and curled, then rotted, seemingly the result of a fog that had wafted across the fields of Ireland.
The cause was actually an airborne fungus phytophthora infestans originally transported in the holds of ships traveling from North America to England. Winds from southern England carried the fungus to the countryside around Dublin.
The blight spread throughout the fields as fungal spores settled on the leaves of healthy potato plants, multiplied and were carried in the millions by cool breezes to surrounding plants. Under ideal moist conditions, a single infected potato plant could infect thousands more in just a few days.
The attacked plants fermented while providing the nourishment the fungus needed to live, emitting a nauseous stench as they blackened and withered in front of the disbelieving eyes of Irish peasants.
There had been crop failures in the past due to weather and other diseases, but this strange new failure was unlike anything ever seen. Potatoes dug out of the ground at first looked edible, but shriveled and rotted within days. The potatoes had been attacked by the same fungus that had destroyed the plant leaves above ground.
By Octobernews of the blight had reached London. Perhaps, it was thought, static electricity in the air resulting from the newly arrived locomotive trains caused it.
Some Catholics viewed the crisis in religious terms as Divine punishment for the "sins of the people" while others saw it as Judgment against abusive landlords and middlemen.
The protectionist laws had been enacted in to artificially keep up the price of British-grown grain by imposing heavy tariffs on all imported grain. Under the Corn Laws, the large amounts of cheap foreign grain now needed for Ireland would be prohibitively expensive. However, English gentry and politicians reacted with outrage at the mere prospect of losing their long-cherished price protections.
Between andsixteen food shortages had occurred in various parts of Ireland. However, during the Famine the crop failure became national for the first time, affecting the entire country at once.
Thus they reacted to the current food shortage as they had in the past by enacting temporary relief measures. A Relief Commission was established in Dublin to set up local relief committees throughout Ireland composed of landowners, their agents, magistrates, clergy and notable residents.
The local committees were supposed to help organize employment projects and distribute food to the poor while raising money from landowners to cover part of the cost. The British government would then contribute a matching amount.
However, in remote rural areas, many of the relief committees were taken over by poorly educated farmers who conducted disorganized, rowdy meetings.
Local landowners, upon seeing who was on the committees, balked at donating any money.Ireland's potato crop failures in the past had always been regional and short-lived with modest loss of life. Between and , sixteen food shortages had occurred in various parts of Ireland. However, during the Famine the crop failure became national for the first time, affecting the entire country at once.
The Great Famine, the Great Hunger; the Irish Potato Famine;an Drochshaol, [ənˠ ˈdˠɾɔxˌhiːlˠ], the Bad Life) was a period of mass starvation, disease and emigration in Ireland between and during which the island's population dropped by 20 to 25 percent.
Beginning in and lasting for six years, the potato famine killed over a million men, women and children in Ireland and caused another million to flee the country.
Ireland in the mids was an agricultural nation, populated by eight million persons who . Great Famine, also called Irish Potato Famine, Great Irish Famine, or Famine of –49, famine that occurred in Ireland in –49 when the potato crop failed in successive years.
The crop failures were caused by late blight, a disease that destroys both the leaves . Ireland’s Great Famine of is seen by some historians as a turning point in Ireland’s history.
Famine had been common in Nineteenth Century Ireland and almost an occupational hazard of rural life in Ireland. But the Great Famine of . The Great Irish Famine – A Brief Overview John_Dorney 18 October, Irish History, Overview A depiction of a mother and children at Skibbereen during the famine.