Ireland Potato Famine

By James Klimek

A illustration of a starving boy and girl looking for potatoes 1847.

Why Potatoes Were so Important

Potatoes were very appealing to the Irish for many different reasons. They were a nutritious and calorie dense crop. They were also very easy for farmers to grow in Ireland. During the 1840's almost half of the population of Ireland began to depend on potatoes for their diet. The other half of the population also consumed lots of potatoes. This caused the Irish to rely on 1 or 2 high yielding types of potatoes. This caused the Irish to be vulnerable to famine. 

What potatoes looked like during the famine.

What Caused the Potato Famine?

A strain of Phytophthora infestans is what caused the potato famine. This strain of Phytophthora infestans was called HERB-1. It originated somewhere around Toluca Valley in Mexico. It would infect the potatoes through their leaves and leave the potatoes shriveled and inedible. This strain was also responsible for other potato famines around the world. It is now believed to be extinct. 

Toluca Valley, Mexico where the strain that destroyed all the potatoes is believed to have come from. 

Effects of the Potato Famine

The Potato Famine cause mass starvation across Ireland. Over 1 million people died between 1846 and 1851. Most of these victims died from starvation. But many other people died from diseases. People would contract the famine fever and this would make them get other diseases easier. Others decided to move to America where the would live in very bad conditions. Once the Irish got to America they were treated very poorly and struggled to find jobs.  

Victims of the Potato Famine migrating to the U.S. 

After the Famine

After the famine the Irish economy struggled. Almost 4.5 million people left Ireland and went to the US in search of jobs.  Ireland also passed the Encumbered Estates Act of 1849. This was a law that allowed British to buy land that was owned by people in debt. This resulted in many farmers to be forced off their land by wealthy British landowners. In 1879 the blight that killed the potatoes during the first famine came back. But this time the Irish were organized and starvation did not occur. 

Encumbered Estates Act of 1849. 

My Reaction

I would have hated to live in Ireland during the time of the Great Potato Famine. Lots of people were starving and dying from diseases all the time and I think that would have been horrible to have been around. I also wouldn't have wanted to have contracted one of those diseases because that would have been a pretty bad way to die. 


Boy and girl looking for potato. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2016.

"Great Famine." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2016.

Infected Potato. Digital image. Jgburdette. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Oct. 2016.

Maranzani, Barbara. "After 168 Years, Potato Famine Mystery Solved.", 21 May 2013. Web. 2 Oct. 2016.

Toluca Valley, Mexico. Digital image., n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.

"The Potato Famine and Irish Immigration to the US." Constitutional Rights Foundation. Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2016

Victims of Potato Famine. Digital image. Britannica. Britannica, n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2016"

After the Famine.", n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2016

Encumbered Estates Act of 1849. Digital image. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Oct. 2016.

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Public - 10/2/16, 7:47 PM