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Great Famine in Ireland - Essay Example

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The Great Famine in Ireland has always fascinated historians and students of history alike. For one, many scholars and academicians assumed that Ireland suffered from dire poverty even before the Great Famine ensued in the country. This assumption, of course, has a strong basis since studies done by historians about Ireland point to the facts that the country was indeed 'poor' even before the Great Famine broke out…
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Great Famine in Ireland
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Download file to see previous pages Political life for the Irish before the famine had already been considered deplorable.1 According to Dudley Edwards, author of the book 'The Great Famine,' the Penal Law effected on the Irish population in the 18th century 'kept them poor' as more than half of the country's revenues were taken out of Ireland. The novelist Jonathan Swift commented that the Irish 'live[d] worse than English beggars.'2 Farmworkers and their families had to pay exorbitant rents and lived in filthy environment devoid of even a shoe or stocking to protect their feet. 3 This was brought about by the abolition of the Irish Parliament in Dublin and in turn, England administered the country4 whose population live in dire misery of 'poverty and insecurity.'5 Historians contend that reform of the social system could have been instituted during that period so as to advance political and economic security. It is clear therefore that the failure of the British government to introduce legislation, as for instance on, hindering emigration, land reform measures and agricultural improvement only showed the indifference of the British government on the plight of the Irish people.
English reformists merely observed in dismay Ireland's doubling population before the advent of the famine. Harvests that were very productive and bountiful showed that people had enough to eat, yet employment opportunities were scarce. The Act of the Union caused Ireland's integration into the British economy as the England utilised Ireland as its 'dumping ground' for it surplus products. The hastening of industrialisation in Britain also resulted to the breakdown of certain industries which used to generate employment. Surveys at that period conducted by the English on the loves of the Irish people depicted a harsh reality of the Irish life. The survey revealed that around 75 percent of Irish laborers were out of regular employment and many begged on the the streets in order to live.6
Moreover, the dominance of the landed elite composed of the Anglo-Irish and the English families asserted their power and authority over their tenants. However, most of these landowners employed middlemen to manage their land for them. Appropriately called absentees, they showed no interest in the development of the land and agricultural areas they owned. The rental fees accrued from the the lands supported and kept the landed elites on their status. The rest of the population meanwhile, all 3 million of them, were left without regular employment.7 The struggle for tenant rights came later when the country trembles on the verge of the famine. Yet these were likewise not easily achieved. Many historians argued that the problem of poverty in Ireland in the 18th and 19th century was the outcome of land tenancy.8
However, Joel Mokyr proposes that neither the land tenure issue nor the issue of population could explain the economic and political failures Ireland had experienced. For Mokyr, violence and lawlessness constituted a major part of the Irish experience in the 19th century, including the period before the famine.9 Mokyr adds that the 'conflict and social unrest' which ensued during the aforesaid centuries could be held responsible for the economic turmoil and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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