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The Irish Potato Famine - Essay Example

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Summary
For those studying history, perhaps one of the most challenging tasks is to be able to comprehend the meaning of historical events as perceived by people who lived when they were taking place. In this regard, it is really difficult to imagine some horrible episodes of which the world history is full…
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The Irish Potato Famine
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The Irish Potato Famine

Download file to see previous pages... Let us try to overview the historical context which preceded The Irish Potato Famine, and on ground of this try to find out what principle factors provoked the famine.
The Irish Potato Famine is the name of a famine that took place in Ireland between 1845 and 1849, but immediate effects of which were felt until 1851. If we refer to dry statistics, then we may learn that the total number of people who died from this famine is unclear because there were no exact historical records. However, according to different estimates it is supposed that the general number of victims that can be directly and indirectly attributed to the famine ranges from 500,000 to more than one million (Lyons, 1985, p.14). Aside from the enormous death toll, there were many other social and economic consequences of the famine. Among such consequences were several million Irish refugees who during and after the famine emigrated to Britain, America, Canada, and Australia (Scally, 1996, p.167). Also, as we shall see, the effects of the famine on Irish culture and economy were so great that it significantly changed them. At this point we may begin to wonder whether the very fact that such a profound historical event as the Irish Potato Famine took place can be explained purely by natural causes, or maybe there was an involvement of social, economic, and political factors which contributed to the famine To see if this was the case, let us firstly overview political and economic environment in which the famine happened, and then consider demographic and agricultural aspects relevant to the famine.
Speaking of the political context of the famine, we of course must mention relations between Ireland and Great Britain in the middle of the nineteenth century. Since the Act of Union of 1800 Ireland was to be formally represented by one hundred members in the House of Commons in the United Kingdom, which was merely a one-fifth proportion of representation of Great Britain. Moreover, in addition to the low level of Irish representation in the parliament of Britain the needs of Ireland were given a low priority. It was not surprising as most of the members of government had never even been in Ireland themselves. To better feel the situation of that time, we should add that the British dominance was as well fortified by the unification of the churches of Ireland and England, with the ensuing leadership in Ireland of the Anglicans and exclusion of Roman Catholics and Presbyterians from membership in governmental bodies. Only by 1829 was political equality restored in Ireland in certain spheres. This included the possibility to participate in free trade between the British Isles, and admission of Irish merchandise to colonies of Britain on equal terms with British goods (Otuathaigh, 1972).
Now, on ground of the mentioned signs of oppression of Ireland it was suggested by some historians that the Irish Potato Famine was in fact a genocide initiated by the British against Ireland. However, this accusation is dismissed by most scholars as too radical, and instead it is thought that the policies of Britain during the famine can rather be blamed as fallacious, ignorant, and fatal, and that as a significant reduction of population of Ireland was deemed desirable by many British politicians they might just had decided not to intervene in the natural course ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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