Irish Potato Famine

The Irish Potato Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, began in 1845 and lasted until 1852. During this time, a late blight infestation spread rapidly throughout Ireland and ruined one-half of the potato crop in 1845 and about three-quarters of the potato crop over the following seven years. This infestation was particularly devastating for Ireland’s population overall because they relied heavily on potatoes as a main source of food, resulting in roughly one million deaths before the famine ended in 1852. Additionally, at least another million Irish were forced to leave the country as refugees, resulting in an even greater decline in Ireland’s population. 

After observing a series of costly, failed attempts by the British government to alleviate the Irish suffering, Mill saw the opportunity for a solution which he believed was “the only mode of combining relief to immediate destitution with permanent improvement of the social and economical condition of the Irish people” (Mill 178). He then advocated for this long-term solution to the Irish land question, which was based on major alterations in land tenure, for the remainder of his life. 


Irish Potato Famine. 17 Oct. 2017,

Mill, John Stuart. Autobiography. Penguin Classics, 1989.

Mokyr, Joel. Great Famine.

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

1845 to 1852

Parent Chronology: