During the 1500s, Ireland was torn apart by war. This was between the country’s English rulers and the Irish inhabitants. As well as, local nobles always fighting each other. It caused Ireland’s peasant farmers to have a hard time growing enough food to feed themselves, let alone everyone else. Then, around the year 1600, the potato was introduced.
Sir Walter Raleigh was a sea caption/poet and one day, around the year 1600, he brought potatoes to Ireland. Once, they arrived, Potatoes caught on incredibly quick. The cause of the Potatoes popularity was based on its production. They were producing more food per acre, than any other crops that Irish Farmers had ever grown.
Since the Potato was so plentiful and could feed so many people, Ireland's population had increased very quickly. From the 1500's to 1840 Irelands population had gone from less than 3 million to a massive 8 million people, thanks to the Potato. But, some people were unsure about so many people relying on one food source and they tried to warn others. Sadly, they didn't listen.
By the mid-1800's most Irish people worked the land, which they did not own. It was owned by landlords. They had a very low standard of living. They had potatoes for every meal and sometimes it was combined with milk if they had a Cow. A man could eat 4 kilos of potatoes a day! The poor mostly sold the finest potatoes and they ate the small, watery kind called ‘lumpers’.
Back in 1844, a strange disease was reported. It had attacked the potato crop in Canada. By September of 1845, it had made its appearance in Ireland and up to half of the crop was destroyed. No-one knows for certain how many Irish people died in the Great Potato Famine. Modern historians and statisticians estimate that 500,000 and 1,100,000 people died. Many historians suggest the death-toll was in the range of 700,000 to 800,000.
Immigrating to America was referred to as the “American Wake” for these people knew they would never see Ireland again. This was incredibly hard for them. They only moved because they knew their future in Ireland would be full of more poverty, disease, and English abuse. America became their dream. Now days, Ireland has influenced America with automobiles and even Saint Patrick's Day!