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The Irish Famine of 1840

  • Date Submitted: 11/19/2011 05:45 AM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 61.7 
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The famine of 1740-41 and 1840’s both brought severe misery to our land. The famine of 1741 may have been of the same magnitude to the more famous famine of the 1840’s, however both famines bare similarities and differences. In similarities equally they both affected the potato crop and the same class of people in society, food costs began to increase in both famines and only the rich could afford to properly nourish their families. Death tolls were somewhat similar however no clear figures are available for 1740-41 in comparison to the 1850’s.
Comparing both famines one must first look at the causes of each. The famine of 1740-41 was more extreme, more unusual and respectively more lethal than the famine of the 1840’s and in contrast to the potato famine its origin was weather conditions.1.50 On 27 December 1939 the temperatures across Ireland fell far below freezing point and a frost made all the more bearable by a week of strong easterly gales set in. What ensued here, and across most of North West Europe was and remains to this day the most severe period of cold on record. In the words of Seaghan O Connaire, the parish priest in Cloyne Co. Cork, ‘The Gaels were not all weakened in Ireland, until from the sky came the harsh east winds which left us in woe, pain, debt and hardship.’1.53 The severe weather spoken of by Seaghan O Connaire continued for seven weeks without remission. The interior of family homes remained below freezing level and this was then followed by an astonishing series of uncommon seasons beginning with an icy and rainless spring. By the start of summer ‘the grass and corn were all burnt up and the fields looked as red as foxes’ a dry summer was shadowed by the coldest autumn in over two centuries and then by a snow filled Christmas. In the summer of 1741 there was little heat but drought and it was not until two years following the first ‘great frost’ that rainfall amounts returned to normal averages1.54.
The cause of the great frost...


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