Irish Potato Famine – The Young and the Old – Extra History – #5

Dublin, August 5th, 1847. The city awakens to the toll of cathedral bells. Dublineers from every level of society, from shoeless boys to princes of the church, course through the streets walking towards St. Mary’s. Men sent as representatives from the farthest towns of Ireland pat their pockets, ensuring they have matches to light a votive candle. They’re all going to see a man buried .And not just any man. Three days before, in a year when so many had died without coffins, thousands of people had watched one be carried through the streets. Inside was the Liberator: Daniel O’Connell. Dublineers wept for the man who’d fought for their religious freedom: the first Irish Catholic to sit in parliament and the man who had come closer than anyone to repealing the Act of Union tying Ireland to Great Britain. A crusader who had denounced Anti-Semitism and slavery, and a man who in death had their forgiveness – for in their greatest hour of need, he had failed them. Intro 1847. The British government caved on its policy of trying to morally reform Ireland via food aid. The Prime Minister Lord John Russell recognized the failure of Trevelyan’s aid program and turned to directly feeding three million in Ireland via soup kitchens and work houses. Private charities joined in with, Irish Quakers trying to fill the gap. Donations to the British relief association came from as far away as India, Mexico and Venezuela. Queen Victoria sent public letters asking the British to donate to relief organizations and contributed two thousand pounds, and large donations came from Pope Pius the ninth and the Sultan of Turkey who had also sent ships full of supplies. It was not enough, but it did save many lives. The 1847 harvest was a healthy one with no signs of blight, yet it was only a quarter the size of a normal harvest. Desperate farmers had eaten their seed potatoes in 1846, leaving few to plant for next year’s crop so, though free of blight, Ireland still needed aid. But British relief started to run into popular opposition: homeless Irish refugees were increasingly showing up in British cities, stranded while trying to make it to a port, and the bubble in railroad construction had recently burst, sending Britain into recession and suddenly a public who viewed Ireland with deep prejudice but some sympathy began to sour. The British press portrayed the Irish as freeloaders. Aid was scaled back and began to disappear. And as that happened an 1847 poor law meant to encourage landowners to act responsibly backfired. The Law charged a tax on landowners that rose along with the rate of poverty among their tenants to keep their taxes down. It was thought the landowners would ensure that their tenants weren’t living in poverty. Instead, you would be shocked to learn the landowners found a loophole: mass evictions. They didn’t have a poor rate, after all, if they didn’t have tenants. With the economy collapsing and many tenants too weak to work, landowners had ample excuse to bring in the constables with their sledgehammers and torches, running families out of their homes by bringing the walls down around them. Whole towns turned out on the road took to living in ditches or flooding into cities to fill work houses and beg on the streets. But this incredible cruelty triggered repercussions: the midnight legislators. Militias like the Molly Maguires ambushed landlords, police and even clergy on the road. Four Irish landowners were assassinated that year and in addition, the poor law had another disturbing component to ensure that only the poorest could claim for relief: Only those with less than a quarter acre of farmland could receive food aid. Therefore, many small farmers had to give up all they had to survive. Ireland needed a champion, an advocate, yet despite their great need Irish political leaders were largely absent from the crisis. Daniel O’Connell, who had ran the Repeal Association, Ireland’s largest political bloc, had been outspoken at first, but in 1845 and 1846 he’d failed to recognize the scale of the disaster. Potato failures and food scarcity were nothing new to Ireland, and he believed it would go away. His focus remained underposing Prime Minister Peel. O’Connell saw him as Pro Protestant, anti-Catholic and anti Irish. Therefore, O’Connell led the Irish parliamentary bloc in ousting Peel and served as the kingmakers in bringing the Liberal Whigs to power. O’Connell was playing the long game. He saw the Whigs as willing to compromise on Ireland and in helping them form a government. He hoped to extract promises to win the Irish greater freedom. So he stayed quiet, only speaking up in private as the starvation deepened. He tried to parlay this Whig Alliance into something useful, even voting for harsh crime bills that increased colonists pressure on Ireland. By the time he realized that he’d been played, it was too late. Members of his Repeal Association were up in arms over his support of the Whigs and splitting into factions. On one side were the Old Irelanders. They followed O’Connell’s principles of non-violence. On the other, the Young Irelanders. While they didn’t advocate rebellion, they believed taking it off the table was a strategic mistake. To force concessions out of London, they argued, they had to at least preserve the threat of taking up the gun. So in 1846, O’Connell had finally had enough. Anxious to consolidate his hold over the movement, he forced a crisis in the Repeal Association by calling a vote: to remain part of the Association, all members must pledge to forswear violence. The Young Irelanders walked out, splitting Ireland’s largest political organization. Over the coming year, Old and Young Ireland were at each other’s throats. One Old Irelander, totally adhering to his nonviolent roots, set his dogs on a political opponent, and Old Irelanders interrupted Young Ireland meetings – in one instance ,smashing in the doors with a battering ram. Ireland was experiencing its greatest existential crisis of the 19th century, and its most powerful political organization was wasting its focus on an internecine feud. The results proved tragic for Young Ireland. Unfettered from the moderates in the Repeal Association, they increasingly talked of rebellion and to their surprise, the wheels of rebellion started to turn faster than they’d thought. An uprising, unthinkable in 1847, started to seem inevitable. Scarcity and political disaffection across Europe boiled over in 1848, kicking off a series of bloodless revolutions: the French overthrew their king, Denmark ended in absolute monarchy, Austria abolished serfdom and the Netherlands instituted democracy. Demonstrations surged through the streets of a dozen major cities, and a heady feeling swept through the Young Irelanders: might it be possible? They traveled to Paris to view the new government and brought back a new flag: a tricolour like the French one, but with Catholic green and Protestant orange, united by a white field of truce. And things started to happen. When a prominent Young Ireland leader got arrested, a mob broke in to jail to save him. Armed men flocked to their cause, and it seemed for a moment that the whole nation might rise and throw off the British yoke. But the Young Irelanders had no plan and the British absolutely did. Soldiers and police scooped up the leaders, imprisoning or transporting them to faraway prison colonies. In fact, the only confrontation was a skirmish so minor it was known as the Battle of Mrs. McCormack…’s Cabbage Patch. The Young Irelander rebellion failed because its leaders failed to grasp a basic concept: Ireland was too enfeebled by famine and disease to rise, too devoid of hope, and in autumn of 1848, blight returned. it wasn’t until the end of 1849 that Ireland saw a healthy harvest. But by that time, at least a million people were dead and up to two million emigrated. The great famine proved a landmark in the history of Ireland. One of the most famous mass migrations in history, it spread the Irish people and their culture across the globe. Escapees from the Young Ireland rebellion would flee to the United States and form the Fenian Brotherhood, a revolutionary organization that would carry Irish Republicanism back to the homeland. The famine itself permanently marred relations with Great Britain, ensuring that moderates like Daniel O’Connell would never get the same kind of traction. Future revolutionaries called on the memory of Black ’47, and it might even be argued that the famine set the island inexorably on the path to the Easter Rising. The Ireland that Whigs like secretary Trevelyan wanted to create, one given over to larger scale farming, never permanently came to pass. In fact, the failure of Russell’s free trade policies proved so total, the Whigs lost power in 1852 and dissolved seven years later. Ireland at least did break its reliance on the potato. 1 million people had died due to prejudiced men writing bad policy, a stark warning of what happens when poor relief becomes a tool for political ideology. Trevelyan, for his part, went on to reform the civil service and serve in India, and in 1848, as Irish women and children died homeless along the road, the Queen Knighted Trevelyan for his service to the government. They would later grant him a baronet. Sorry, folks. Sometimes, bad men die in their sleep. But there’s another legacy of the famine, because the Irish remember when they weren’t the ones far away and forgotten, their suffering no more than a line in a newspaper. Today, the Republic of Ireland is a world leader in international food and development aid. In 2018, it provided assistance to over a hundred and thirty countries with 80% of its relief efforts going to Sub-Saharan Africa, and in 2019, they will spend 817 million euros helping the world’s poorest. In a world where one in eight people are malnourished, Ireland has turned its deepest psychological scar into a call to action, and If after hearing this tale, you’d like to help them, check out the links in the description below and see how you can.

Comments 100

  • By the time that the first healthy harvest arrived in 1849, a million people had died due to prejudiced men writing bad policy—a stark
    warning of what happens when poor relief becomes a tool of political ideology. But in a world where 1 in 8 people are malnourished, the Republic of Ireland today has turned its deepest
    psychological scar into a call to action.
    Oxfam Ireland:

    Oxfam America:
    You can also support our production of Extra History and help us pick what stories we should explore next, by joining our Patreon here:

  • How Ireland is a leader in food aid around the world is impressive. They rose from stigma. Great video.

  • My great great grandfather I believe was a immigrant and that's how I ended up in america

  • "The British press portrayed the Irish as freeloaders."

    Gee I wonder where I've seen THAT before, HMMM…

  • Where the British have Been so has Death

  • and Children this is never let Britain in control of anything as they will screw you over….

  • A farmer needed to own less than a quarter acre of land to qualify for food aid?!
    We have 1.75 acres of property, of which perhaps 1.25 acres might be arable land. There is no way this place could support even a small family.

  • Please do a series on indian struggle for independence.

  • Never been prouder to have first gen Irish lineage. I wanna move back to Oughterard, because we're fuckin GREAT.

  • To be fair to Daniel the man was dying when the famine happened

  • Ummmmm…. the Irish flag is green for shamrocks and orange for redheads get your facts straight.

  • Everyone let German off with WW2
    But even today the British people are to blame for what happened in a time when non of us was even here

  • It's so heart-warming to know the ones who suffered the most in the past are the most eager to help those in need in the present.

  • Thank you for posting this series.  Very informative.

  • whats the easter rising?

  • Gritty easter egg.

  • When the Ottoman Monarch does more than Your Monarch to keep You from starving to death…

  • You should do something about the Revolutions of 1848

  • I am absolutely committed to non-violence, and I will beat up anyone who doesn't.

  • My family story from the Irish Potato Famine is a success story. My family could afford the journey across the Atlantic and could afford to move west to southern Minnesota to farm. The house that my grandparents live in has been in our family for over 100 years now. My 2× great grandparents came over and survived.

  • The United states donates the most food aid and financial aid in the world. Unlike China which gives out financial loans that end up bankrupting the nation. Thanks to America the worlds population is closing on 8 billion. Bread basket of the world.

  • So muslims saved irish people as well ? Why people hate them now and treat them like monsters ?

  • Irish famine in the west and Bengal famine in the east.

  • Anyone else notice the Philly Fanatic at 3:35?

  • Thank you for covering such a topic. I love hearing about Ireland because it reminds me of the prejudices of today.

    It's so important for people to realize how much we keep running in circles, merely just pushing the blame onto whatever minority is an easy target or whoever is considered the "younger" generation. Its makes a bad situation worse and then horrific and then unforgivable.


    Damn that mofo still taking revenge on the rich even before I was born! Hell yeah! ✊?

  • The potato famine episodes really illustrates that history does repeat itself.


  • It's a dangerous and complete cop out to have left out "Christians behaving poorly as they have since Rome" from your summation of the reasons this happened. The 30 Years' War is often called the last Christian war in Europe, but what was the Irish Potato Famine if not a sectarian war that, yet again, devastated lives in the name of some god who didn't care enough to feed hungry children in their darkest hour?

    "Diplomacy" is the word we use when we often should be saying, "lie by omission"; lipstick on a pig if ever there was any. Poor show, Extra History.

  • Why did he say sultan of turkey rather than The Sultan of the ottomans?

  • You should do a episode on the 1916 rising

  • Ireland: lol Britain this isn’t good send help

    Britain: lmao no

  • It wasn't yet Turkey , it was Ottoman Empire. Turkey founded in 1923 by Atattürk.

  • actually in the 1847 Ottoman Sultan, Khaleefah Abdul-Majid I, declared his intention to send £10,000 to aid Ireland's farmers. However, Queen Victoria intervened and requested that the Sultan send only £1,000 because she had sent only £2,000 herself.

    So the Sultan sent only the £1,000, but he also secretly sent five ships full of food. The English courts attempted to block the ships, but the food arrived in Drogheda harbor and was left there by Ottoman sailors. That £10,000 that the Sultan pledged to the Irish would be worth approximately £800,000 ($964K) today.

  • Basically what i can gather from my hundreds of hours of researching historical events in europe is that the english sucked.

  • 3:37 gritty

  • From what I can tell, despite his failure in their greatest hour, Daniel O'Connell is still a fairly well-respected figure in Ireland.

  • Erin go Bragh!

  • Is that person on the very right at 3:39 okay?

  • I hope Trevelyan is in the walk of shame.

  • The Guy far on the right looks very scary at 3:40

  • 3:36 Gritty's origin story

  • Id recommend this series of videos because it informs and brings so much into perspective and captures your interest wich is rare in school

  • 0:53 guys can we stop using the word crusader to describe great people

  • God: So how much Abuse do you want to inflict on the Irish

    The Parlement: YES

  • This is hard to watch and not get pissed of at the Brits

    And you trevelyan, I wish nothing more than for you to burn in hell

  • My great, ancestral lands of Ireland: proud, free, and strong – forevermore.

  • I'm pretty sure we have probably suffered more than any other group of people throughout human history

  • Lord John Russel was my direct ancestor.

  • The Fenian Brotherhood had a war with the Canadian military to distract the British in hope of a revolution but it didn't work out

  • The Ottoman Empire helped Ireland but someway the British don't want to know ?

  • Oh, boy, I loved this. I'm not Irish but I lived in Ireland and I still love the place. However I never really knew the details about the famine, so thanks for the video. Also, now I know what the colours stand for.

  • damn the British was really out here just fuckin everybody, huh?

  • Bloodless revolutions? Bruh….

  • 1776 the potatoes were abundant

  • It's crazy to see how bad was life of people in countryside in British Isles
    It was the greatest power in the world and it was so neglect for its own peasants
    That tenants basically had no rights
    That was lot worse than serfdom in Poland or Russia. At least there were no evictions. People had to work on their landlord. But thay didn't had to pay rent/ And they wouln't be evicted beacause of landlord's desire to make more profit
    That' s not democracy/ That's a total bullshit
    If your Parliament can chose a Prime Vinister and your monarch is deprived of real power that's not enough to call country a democracy
    That's fucking crazy
    I know that today's Britain and Ireland are totally different from what they been in 19th centuries. But that shit that was there back in the day shokes me
    Maybe there were so many emigrants from England beacause life there was totally shit? Or maybe so many people moved from countryside to cities because of rural life totally sucked?

  • No one noticing at least 2 Spongebob references in this Irish Potato Famine Series?

  • is that gritty on the right? 3:34


  • Person: What was that parasite called that caused mass famine in ireland?

    My Brain:

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Don't say it

    Me: The British

  • i feel bad eating potatos now. Is that weird?

  • as well as the Irish Famine the Uk had a few other things to consider in the period too –
    Wars in India
    Wars in New Zealand
    Revolutions in Europe
    Potential war with the US over Oregon…

  • 100,000 people died in Europe as a result of the potatoe famine.

    Famine hit Scandinavia in the 1860s – with many dying or emigrating, and the government also not stopping food exports in order to keep the economy functioning and providing a livelihood for as many as possible – it helps no one to bann food export and then have the food rot as it is not where the starving are – better to let government sort out aid and allow exports to continue.

  • Does the ottoman really help ireland i cant see them in this video from 1 to 5

  • It is a great thing the ottoman sultan helped but not be fooled. They were not the "good". Slavery under ottomans was not a joke. Slaughter of hole villages and turning into islam or death. Russian-Turkish liberation war was like a gift from God for christians under ottoman rule.

    "…On every side were human bones, skulls, ribs, and even complete skeletons, heads of girls still adorned with braids of long hair, bones of children, skeletons still encased in clothing. Here was a house the floor of which was white with the ashes and charred bones of thirty persons burned alive there. Here was the spot where the village notable Trendafil was spitted on a pike and then roasted, and where he is now buried; there was a foul hole full of decomposing bodies; here a mill dam filled with swollen corpses; here the school house, where 200 women and children had taken refuge there were burned alive, and here the church and churchyard, where fully a thousand half-decayed forms were still to be seen, filling the enclosure in a heap several feet high, arms, feet, and heads protruding from the stones which had vainly been thrown there to hide them, and poisoning all the air.

    "Since my visit, by orders of the Mutessarif, the Kaimakam of Tatar Bazardjik was sent to Batak, with some lime to aid in the decomposition of the bodies, and to prevent a pestilence.

    "Ahmed Aga, who commanded at the massacre, has been decorated and promoted to the rank of Yuz-bashi…"[24]

    by Eugene Schuyler's report, published in Daily News about the Batak massacre, Bulgaria 1876.

  • 3:35 gritty is always watching… even tho the suuucckkk

  • How about a episode of Extra Credits telling of the "The Equivalent" the price paid by UK for Ireland..

  • RIP Daniel Connell!!

  • It’s pronounced “Feen-yan”

  • 0:36 he was like William Wallace.

  • Tiocfaidh ár lá

  • I find it infuriating that the irish who managed to get to north american continent went at each others throats as soon as they avoided the imminent threat of starvation, for the most idiotic reason of all – whose imaginary friend is better.

  • Britain in 1950: why don’t anyone like us?

  • I have never felt so proud of Irish and so fool of British….

  • Glory to Ireland and her people's ??????

  • As an Irish descendant, this video has taught me more about concepts that are vaguely covered in our society.
    Like, why being half Irish and half Scottish from different sides of my family is such a big thing.
    I knew both sides of my family had come over to Australia on boats, but because they had technically paid it wasn't seen as dire as the convicts, not realizing the poor conditions they were escaping and lived with, on the trip and arriving.
    That the potato famine was initially caused by the mishandling of American potato imports. I didn't even know the famine was caused by crop disease, as the issue was mostly brushed over and famine explained as little food and failed crops.
    That the impression of brash rowdy Irlanders was a holdover of racist English attitudes, and why even in Australia for generations Irish were seen as second class citizens and routinely abused by law and state.
    And why most Irish descendants, like me, have lost or cannot find traces of originally families or communities in Ireland, and chasing our family histories is most times impossible, and have lost all connection and culture, and can only refer to ourselves as descendants, not Irish truly ourselves, and only experience our lost culture as second hand, and hoping that this is what our ancestors actually had.

  • 3:35 …is that gritty?

  • that's a huge amount of food to be giving away but you got to make facebook and apple pay some fucking tax :V

  • One day Ireland will finally be free.

  • Those that say the pen is mightier than he sword forget that the pen is used to decide who has swords and swords can defend themselves. Today many people think a few men with pens can fight millions with swords imagine if everyone in Ireland knew what freedom was worth they would have had it maybe for as high a cost as the famine but then they would have died for something greater. Suffering is relative

  • My ancestors on my mothers side came to the US near the end of the potatoe famine its the main reason im alive

  • Is impossible to not hate the UK after learning about it's poo past

  • Is that Gritty at 3:36 right hand corner?

  • The potato famine. The best example on how the biggest mass murders are politicians

  • Sulatan Abdulmacid helped Irish people and sent helps to Porgid port and gives Them ten thousand pounds.?

  • 3:34 that dude on the right is scary as HECK!

  • meanwhile in London: everybody is fighting
    Ireland: guys you do know that we are starving… Guys?

  • Potato

  • 3:38 call me crazy but isn't that Gritty on the far right?

  • 3:34 what is that on the right..? Kinda scared me

  • what IS the Easter rebellion?

  • I said it before, I'll say it again:
    "When the going gets tough; The Tough GET GOING!" ?

  • Nice video clips. But if I may, you did spoke at all about Souperism

  • Of course Ireland became a world leader in disaster relief. Fuckin'… I'm trying not to cry and I'm failing miserably.

    Good on you, Ireland. Good on you. You've been there and you don't want to see anybody else have to go through it too.

  • £2000 in the 1840s was a F ton of money.

  • You did such an amazing job on this. Thanks for doing the history justice, great animations too btw.

  • 3:35 I realize this is very late but did anyone else notice the guy in the shadows on the right?

  • Hungarian 1848 revolution: exists
    Extra credits: i'm gonna pretend i didn't see that

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