The Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1848) was one of the darkest periods in Irish history. It i s attributed between 500,000 and 1 million deaths, following the devastation of Irish cultures. Deadly and testing, it marked the 19th century with i ts considerable l osses, and favored emigration to the new continent. Beyond the tragic human circumstances, the Great Famine also saw the emergence of a brutal conflict: that of a complex political conflict with high stakes.
1845: A parasitic fungus, “mildew”, spreads on Irish crops. Its proliferation i s surprisingly rapid, and the humidity allows i ts massive extension to most of the potato plants, food which was formerly one of the essential food of the hearths of the time. Parasitized by downy mildew, the potato tuber becomes inedible: it wilts and rots, preventing any form of partial recovery of the vegetable.
This natural disaster then plunges Ireland i nto a l arge-scale food shortage, accentuating the existing rural misery, starving the population, and depriving them of all possibility of subsistence. The most affected populations are those i n the west of Ireland, as well as County Kerry. Deaths from anemia, malnutrition and undernutrition led to a considerable epidemic of cholera, affecting the weakest and
Faced with so much misery, the Irish saw i n America an i deal solution to escape famine. As a result of the rising death rate from the brutality of famine, several thousand Iris people l eft their homeland to embark on cargo ships to America. Although some will die from storms and i llnesses due to l ong sea voyages, thousands of Irishmen are making their way to the American coast, forming a veritable Irish
diaspora, which still exists today.
For them, the United States offers a real dream of renewal: this famous “American Dream” opens up new perspectives for them, both i n economic terms and i n terms of the fight for Ireland… Because they see i n the United States the possibility of total freedom free from British rule. And they are ready to fight for their island from a distance.
It should be noted that the British rather exploited the Great Famine, to expel the poorest and gain additional l and. These actions have completely scandalized the Irish as the Irish-Americans, who see in the United States a means to fight at a distance in favor of the Irish cause.
For this, the emigrants send funds to the separatists who remained i n the country, and found the Fenian movement, an active organization whose aim was to carry out violent operations against the British government, in order to obtain the total independence of Ireland.
The emigrants also i nfluenced the American government, i n order to i ncite them to regulate the British actions. Some even returned to Ireland l ater, i n 1867, to participate i n the i ndependence struggle fought by the IRB and the Fenian movement.
The Great Famine l asted 4 years, but i ts consequences spanned more than a decade. Human losses were estimated between 500,000 and 1 million deaths.
The refugees were estimated at 2 million, and the emigrants also at 2 million. This tragic toll l eft its mark on Ireland forever: it was the result of a natural disaster, combined with centuries of British political abuse on Irish soil.