Irish potato famine Event

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How Plant Pests and Diseases Effect Society

Directions: Fill out the “What do you know” and the “What do you want to know” part of the chart on the third page of this packet. Then read the article. You can fill in the what you have learned part of the chart when you are finished read and while you are reading. We will also list and discuss these as a class when we are done.

Irish potato famine


One of the great tragedies of the 19th century, Ireland's potato famine claimed more than 1 million lives during the period from 1845 to 1854 and led to a mass emigration of famine survivors to the United States.

In 1845, the famine began after a new type of fungus called Phytophthora infestans hit the nation's potato crops. The fungal disease turned the potatoes black, mushy, and inedible. The poor depended on potatoes for food, both for themselves and for their animals. Potato crops were affected for years, and the prices of grain staples like wheat and rye skyrocketed.

The British government's initial response to the problem was to import large amounts of corn from America and to establish public relief works. The relief effort was declared successful after one year, but the fungus and the hunger were not contained.

The blight returned in 1846, and the crop failures were disastrous. The era was marked by high unemployment, overcrowding in populated areas, and general poverty. People became increasingly desperate for food and ate anything they could get their hands on, including dogs, cats, grass, and other foliage. More and more children were being abandoned, and normal life ceased to exist as the peasants began to starve to death.

In 1847, the potato crop was extremely small. For a short period of time in 1847, the British government opened soup kitchens that fed 3 million people a day, but the relief effort ended after just a few months. The British Parliament enacted a new Poor Law, which made Irish landlords pay the entire cost of famine relief. The landlords also had new rights to evict tenants, and peasants had to choose between giving up their land or starving.

In the summer of 1847, the government callously raised taxes. As the disaster dragged on, British prime minister John Russell rejected the idea of full-scale relief, and financial secretary for the treasury, Charles E. Trevelyan, spoke of his belief that God had sent the blight and that the famine should be left to natural causes. Famine-related diseases like typhus, dysentery, and cholera were running rampant, and fevers took many of the frail, the sick, the very young, and the very old.

The winter of 1847 was brutal, and British officials gathered in London to decide how to proceed. They decided to put the poor to work building roads, and by early 1848, close to 1 million people were working for the government for survival. The laborers were too sick and frail from malnutrition to be doing hard labor. Many laborers dropped dead while building roads, and the government ceased the public works operation.

The potato blight returned in 1848 and 1849. Famine survivors began to flee the island in droves; they mostly headed for the United States but also to New Zealand and Australia. More people left Ireland during the famine era than had left the country in the two prior centuries. Many "lost children" resulted from parents fleeing with the plan of sending for their children later. In addition, a yellow fever epidemic in 1853 laid waste to 20% of the Irish population.

By 1854, tens of thousands of people had died of outright starvation, and an estimated 1.1 million people died of famine-related diseases. During the famine, another 1.5 million Irish fled the their homeland in search of a new sense of security and a better chance for survival.

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ID: 309759

Further reading

Kinealy, Christine. A Death-Dealing Famine: The Great Hunger in Ireland. Chicago: Pluto Press, 1997; O Grada, Cormac. The Great Irish Famine. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995; Schrier, Arnold. Ireland and the American Emigration, 1850–1900. Chester Springs, PA: Dufour Editions, 1997; Woodham Smith, Cecil Blanche Fitz Gerald. The Great Hunger: Ireland, 1845–1849. London: Penguin, 1991.

Citation: MLA style

"Irish potato famine." World History: The Modern Era. 2008. ABC-CLIO. 9 Apr. 2008 .

Irish Potato Famine


What do you know?

What do you want to Know?

What have you learned?

Plant Disease or Pest Essay
Objective: The purpose of this essay is to develop an appreciation of how plant diseases can have a major impact on the social, economic and aesthetic nature of society. You will also become an expert on a plant diseases and how it played a major role in history.
You must choose the disease or pest that has played a major role in history that interests you. Your essay must be typed and be at least five paragraphs long. It should be around two pages double spaced. Your essay must include the following.
Common and scientific name of your disease or pest.
How the disease or pest is transmitted.
What is the life cycle of the disease or pest?
How can the disease or pest be treated?
How did this disease or pest significantly impact society? For example, devastated the economy, causes mass migration, changed the look of an entire city or area.
Make up a fictitious disease or pest that attacks one of the United States Crops and how will that effect our society.
Usefull links,%20etc/Fungi%20II.pdf

Essay must be typed_____ /5 points
Topic must be relevant____/10 points
Essay must have correct information____/10 points
Essay must flow____/10 points
Essay must be two pages and five paragraphs____/10 point
Essay must include how disease affects society___/15

Total____60 points

Irish Potato Famine (potato blight)

Desert Locust

South American Rubber Blight

Asian Longhorn Beetle

Japanese Beetle

Emerald Ash Borer

Western Corn Rootworm

Khapra Beetle

Wheat Stem Rust

Ergot (Salem Witch Trials)

Colorado Potato beetle

Corn borer

Corn smut

Dutch Elm Disease

Apple Blight

Cedar Apple Rust

Cherry Maggot

Mountain Pine Beetle

White tailed deer

Cottontail Rabbit


Red winged Blackbirds

Wild boars

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