The Potato vs. the Economy

Ireland became part of the United Kingdom in 1801, but as a conquered country. The population was eighty-percent Catholic, the majority living in poverty. Until 1829, Catholics were not allowed to own property. Most of the land was owned by English, many of them absentee landlords. Their agents managed the properties and collected rent with almost no regulatory oversight. Most Irish farmers were tenants “at will,” subject to eviction at the whims of the owner or the owners’ agents. The farmers produced peas, beans, honey, rabbits and fish, most of it exported. The tenants themselves subsisted primarily on potatoes and water.

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