Irish Famine (1740–1741)


Irish Famine (1740–1741)

The Irish Famine of 1740–1741 was perhaps of similar magnitude to the better-known Great Famine of 1845-1852. Unlike the famine of the 1840s, which was caused in part by a fungal infection in the potato crop, that of 1740-41 was due to extremely cold and then rainy weather in successive years, resulting in a series of poor harvests. Hunger compounded a range of fatal diseases. The cold and its effects extended across Europe, and it is now seen to be the last serious cold period at the end of the Little Ice Age of about 1400-1800.

There is no information available for the number of deaths caused by the famine; demographic information for the period is lacking, given the infrequent census taking of the 18th century, but in County Kerry some 15,000 'hearths' (households) were reduced to 11,000 by 1742.

Calculating the death rate for the famine of 1847-1849 has also proved difficult, notwithstanding the existence of census returns for 1841 and 1851. However, Irish historian Joe Lee has speculated from contemporary accounts, and information on other famines internationally of the period, that the death rate in 1740-41 was similar to that of the famine a century later, namely that ten percent of the population died. As there wasn't a massive wave of overseas emigration in 1740-41, it has largely been overlooked.

The year 1741, during which the famine was at its worst and mortality was greatest, was known in folk memory as the 'year of the slaughter' (or 'bliain an áir' in Irish).

See also

*List of famines
*Irish Famine (1879)

References

* David Dickson, "Arctic Ireland" (White Row Press, Dublin 1997).
* Joe Lee, "The Modernisation of Irish Society" (ISBN 0-7171-0567-9)
* Michael Drake, "The Irish Demographic Crisis of 1740-41", Historical Studies VI, T. W. Moody (ed.), Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1968.


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