Irish Emigration to the United States

Irish between Ireland and the United States
Irish between Ireland and the United States

It was in the middle of the 19th century that a massive emigration of Irish people to the United States took place in Ireland… Impoverished and worn out by the Great Famine (1845-1848), the Irish then had no choice but to leave their lands to find refuge on a continent where any new beginning seemed possible… It is then the beginning of the Irish emigration: this is why there are so many Americans of Irish origin in the USA!

History of Irish Emigration


The Irish Potato Famine - Public Domain

The Irish Potato Famine – Public Domain

The Great Famine of 1845 was a particularly difficult time for the Irish… Farmers saw their fields parasitized by mildew, a fungus that made potatoes unfit for consumption, plunging the population into an unprecedented food shortage. Soon, the Irish are undernourished, fall ill, and live in abject poverty. Cholera epidemics spread, while famine claimed many victims due to severe anaemia… Between 500,000 and one million Irish people die throughout Ireland as a result of this phenomenon. As a result, wealthy British landlords seem to be taking advantage of the situation by evicting thousands of Irish families from their land who are now unable to pay rent.

The Irish Emigration: the only alternative to flee the misery in Ireland

Faced with such a situation, the Irish are turning to America, the continent of all hopes and dreams. They then see in this New World the idea of a new beginning and the possibility of perhaps reaching the American Dream, this famous dream where any project becomes possible…

Fleeing a dying Ireland, several thousand Irish people are crammed into cargo ships bound for America. Some of them died without reaching the United States, suffering violent storms or terrible epidemics after a journey that was too long and did not meet the hygienic standards required for such a journey.

Nevertheless, 2 million of them set foot in the United States, forming a real Irish diaspora… They settle massively in New York or Boston, find work, open businesses, enlist in the local police, or accept any job as long as it is paid for… Very quickly, the “Irish-Americans” end up adapting to their new life, appreciating the benefits and wealth of the United States…

However, they do not forget Ireland, still torn by hunger and misery, and by British exactions insidiously taking advantage of the situation … Some Irish-Americans still have family in Ireland, and regularly send them all the money they can to help them in their miserable daily lives… But the emigrants don’t stop there and even organize themselves around a revolutionary nationalist movement: the Fenian movement, intended to fight at a distance to free Ireland from the British yoke.

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