Civil War

Irish Potato Famine

Tackk by: Leslie

Under British Rule

After hearing about the American Revolution the Irish became inspired. They tried to revolt but this effort was quickly put down by British officials (at this time Great Britain ruled Ireland). Most of Ireland's population was Catholic, and were NOT liked by the British. The British passed laws that stated Catholics could not serve as officers in the British army or navy, hold government offices, vote, buy land, practice law, go to school, work as an apprentice, own weapons, or practice Catholicism.

Reliance on Agriculture

Starting in the early 1800s Ireland's population began to quickly increase. In 1835 a British "Poor Enquiry" survey showed that 75 percent of the Irish were without jobs. At this time there was a severe lack of businesses in the industrial field because many Irish were poor and instead relied on agriculture. Most of the Irish rented small farms (they could not own land due to the laws passed that prohibited it) but had to give back much of the crop they raised as a payment to the landowners whom they rented from. Most of the Irish grew potatoes because they were cheap and they were filling. Since they were so filling the Irish could eat the potatoes they were able to keep for nearly every meal.

Disease Strikes

However, relying on one crop proved to be a fatal mistake. Between 1845 and 1848 a disease ruined the potatoes,  this disease was actually a fungus that traveled through the air. The fungus had been brought to England by ships from North America and finally made its way to Ireland. This caused about 1 million people to die either from starvation or disease, another 1.25 million left Ireland to avoid the famine. Nearly one million of those who left went to America.

Arrival in America

Upon arrival in the United States the Irish took unskilled jobs in Northeastern cities. The Americans were far from welcoming, some Americans were afraid that these immigrants would take their jobs, they also did not trust the Irish because of previous problems that occurred between the Protestants and Catholics, they were known as Nativists. The Know-Nothing party was a political party founded by Nativists to keep immigrants from holding public office and to make it difficult for them to become American citizens.

Effects of Immigration on American Cities

At this time the Industrial and Transportation Revolutions also brought people from rural and foreign regions to the cities in search of jobs. Small business owners and their families benefited greatly from these changes, they made up a new social class called the middle class. Also, new types of entertainment including concerts, bowling, playing cards, and attending theaters became popular. However there were many negative impacts from the rapid growth of cities. They became overcrowded, housing was unsafe, public services (like clean drinking water and getting rid of waste and trash) were lacking, disease spread easily, epidemics were common, there was a lot of crime due to the lack of police, and there were few fire departments. Although the Irish found many opportunities in the cities and helped the cities to grow the rapid increase of population also caused many urban problems.


Encyclopedia. Desmond A. Gillmor and Brendan O'Leary. 2004. United States. Volume 10. Pages 426-427

Holt Social Studies United States History Beginnings to 1877. William Deverel and Deborah Gray White. 2009. Austin.

The History Place, Irish Potato Famine. 2000.


Rotten Potatoes,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45645796,d.aWM&fp=51ec6b493623ebba&biw=1536&bih=716&

Map of Ireland

Bowling Pins,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45645796,d.aWM&fp=d1b95ac5ae501631&biw=1024&bih=587&

Playing Cards,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45645796,d.aWM&fp=d1b95ac5ae501631&biw=1024&bih=587&


British Flag,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45645796,d.aWM&fp=d1b95ac5ae501631&biw=1024&bih=587

Irish Potato Farmers,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45645796,d.aWM&fp=d1b95ac5ae501631&biw=1024&bih=587&

Irish Immigrants,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45645796,d.aWM&fp=d1b95ac5ae501631&biw=1024&bih=587&

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