Irish potato famine (1845 to 1851)

Ireland - Between 1845 and 1851, Ireland's population fell from around 8 million to just about 5 million people. This was caused by starvation, disease and emigration to America.

Two million acres of potatoes began to rot in 1845 and people began to die. A new type of fungus hit the crops, Phytophthora infestations. No one knew anything about it and so, entire crops were reduced to rotted compost in a very short time. The disease went into remission, only to come back in its same devastating nature each year thereafter until 1850. The working-class people were hit the hardest. 750,000 Irish were confirmed dead as a result of this potato blight, but it is estimated that around double that many people really perished. Overpopulation and the dependency on one crop only worsened the situation.

People couldn't afford to pay their rents anymore and were evicted by their landlords. They were forced to move to disease-infested workhouses or to emigrate to other countries. But even emigration was no solution for many of people - they were crowded into little ships, later also labeled "coffin ships", and many of them died on the way due to hunger, disease and other causes. Usually just over half of the emigrants survived the long journeys.

Other people, who could not afford to buy other food, were forced to eat the rotten potatoes, contracted diseases such as typhoid, and passed these on in their entire villages. Since not even the priests could afford to buy coffins for the dead, they were either not buried or just buried wearing the clothes that had died in, so no one was really safe of disease.

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