During the summer of 1845, an infestation devastated Ireland’s potato crop. The potato had become a vital food source and staple in Irish diet, especially for the poor. “Famine fever” soon spread throughout the countryside infecting millions of people with disease. 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.”
Within 10 years, more then 750,000 people lost their lives to the potato blight. The effects produced statewide panic and numerous people began fleeing their homes. Irish populations continued to decline, as the threat of starvation and disease swept the nation.
The British government had established executive power in Ireland but their relief efforts were inadequate and only worsened the horrors of the potato famine. In 1847, soup kitchens and other emergency programs were generated. However, their feeble attempts of rescue were quickly abandoned as the banking crisis hit Britain.
The Irish Potato Famine left a legacy of deep and lasting feelings of bitterness and distrust toward the British. This event was far from being just a natural disaster. In fact many people were convinced that this was in indirect attempt of British genocide of the Irish people.
Smith, Cecil. W. (1962). The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849. New York: Harper & Row.