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Cause of the great famine and its place in the demographic and migration history

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The Great famine of 1845.
    1. Phytophthora infestans as the first cause of famine.
    2. The situation of Ireland.
    3. Ireland being dependant on potato.
  3. The other factors leading to the disaster.
    1. Vulnerability of the Irish economy.
    2. The English people held as reponsible.
  4. The effects of the famine.
    1. The reduction in population.
    2. Fall in birth rate.
    3. Increase in emigration.
    4. Massive evictions of farmers.
  5. Conclusion.

In the 1800s, Ireland was essentially a rural country. Its economy depended only on agriculture, and its industrial system was very weak. Therefore, Ireland was very poor compared with its neighbour, England. It is considered most of all as an island belonging to England and integrated by this fact into its economic system. Its population was rural and its economy was late, although this country knew some progress in the last decades. It is in this specific context that in 1845, a terrible famine appeared that had dramatic consequences on the future of the country. But, why did Ireland suffer so much from this famine, while the other European countries that too were affected, were largely spared? What were the direct and indirect causes of the Great famine in this country, and what consequences did it have on the demographic and migratory evolution of this country?

[...] So, labourers represented a group that disappeared more and more in the course of time, and this, until 1850s; whereas the Great Famine established finally a demographic surge for farmers. The rural communities indeed began to have a stronger weight in the country, financially as well as politically. Nevertheless there was always rural violence and conflicts between farmers and landlords. Landlords were so accused of having widely abused their legal rights by forcing the farmers to pay higher and higher rents, to be able to expel all those who could not cope with the situation. [...]


[...] The main destinations were North America and England but one of the problems in this big wave of emigration, was the high mortality rate (more than 5 during the journeys on sea. Indeed, with the insufficient sanitary conditions of boats, often overladen, the diseases quickly propagated. Preventing and avoiding this, was going to be once again very difficult for the country. In 1847, when the famine became more and more important, the government tried to establish a tighter legislation of controls. He imposed the presence of doctor on every boat, but very fast, they were going to be overtaken by the increasing number of patients. [...]


[...] It affected firstly, Great Britain, and then arrived in Ireland by the southeast winds at the end of the summer. In August 1845, the ?phytophthora infestans? began to strike Ireland. The situation became rapidly alarming in October and November. One third of the crops were touched. Other European countries had also known this devastation of potatoes' crops at the end of 1840s, but the consequences were less dramatic. The situation in Ireland aggravated very fast. In 1846, three-quarter of the crops were lost, amplified by the big aridity at the end of the summer (ideal for the spread of the disease). [...]

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