After 168 Years, Potato Famine Mystery Solved

A couple of clarifications on the foregoing:
Sir Charles Trevelyan was not the Treasurer in Russell’s cabinet – that was, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Charles Wood, Trevelyan, a civil servant and not a politician, being Under Secretary at the Treasury. As such Wood was his superior and the principal decision maker with regard to Treasury matters. Trevelyan had also held this post during the previous Peel administration.
In her biography Robin Haines (Charles Trevelyan and the great Irish Famine) defends Trevelyan’s performance in a (somewhat, at times) convincing manner. It is definitely wort reading.
A very interesting statistic regarding the impact of the Famine on deaths and Irish Population growth is that on the eve of the Famine (1841 census) Ireland constituted nearly one third of the UK population. A mere 70 years on (census of 1911) it was a bare tenth of the same population – i.e. in one lifetime! This fact helps to reflect, if somewhat overstate) the births foregone due directly to the Famine and subsequent emigration.

Great Famine (Ireland) - Wikipedia

The Great Irish Potato Famine by James Donnelly (Sutton Publishing, 2002)

The History Place - Irish Potato Famine: Introduction

An international team of scientists has finally solved one of history’s greatest mysteries: What caused the devastating Irish potato famine of 1845? The research team, which published its findings in the journal eLife this week, used DNA sequencing of plant specimens dating from the mid-19th century to identify the pathogen that led to the death of nearly 1 million people and the mass emigration of another 2 million from Ireland by 1855. The discovery marks the first time scientists have successfully sequenced a plant’s genome from preserved samples and opens the door for further research into the evolution of pathogens and the spread of plant disease around the world.

The History Place - Irish Potato Famine

Though it had a rich history of agrarian violence, the country was at peace. In addition, its system of communications (roads and canals) had vastly improved in the previous half-century, the Victorian state had a substantial and growing bureaucracy (it generated an army of 12,000 officials in Ireland for a short time in 1847), and Ireland lay at the doorstep of what was then the world's wealthiest nation. Why, then, was it not better able to deal with the problems caused by the failure of its potato crop?

For details of new documentary on a lesser-known aspect of the Irish potato famine go to

The Great Irish Potato Famine by James S

A leading exponent of this providentialist perspective was Sir Charles Trevelyan, the British civil servant chiefly responsible for administering Irish relief policy throughout the famine years. In his book The Irish Crisis, published in 1848, Trevelyan described the famine as 'a direct stroke of an all-wise and all-merciful Providence', one which laid bare 'the deep and inveterate root of social evil'. The famine, he declared, was 'the sharp but effectual remedy by which the cure is likely to be effected... God grant that the generation to which this great opportunity has been offered may rightly perform its part...' This mentality of Trevelyan's was influential in persuading the government to do nothing to restrain mass evictions - and this had the obvious effect of radically restructuring Irish rural society along the lines of the capitalistic model ardently preferred by British policy-makers.

Cormac O Grada, Black 47 and Beyond, the Great Irish Famine, Pricteon,2000, p44-45, see also History Ireland, .

Famine in Schull, County Cork - Library Ireland

Mahony, James, Sketches in the West of Ireland, published in the Illustrated London News (1847); Kissane, Noel, The Irish Famine, a Documentary History (1995); Woodham-Smith, Cecil, The Great Hunger (1962).

The Irish Potato Famine Wasn’t Caused By A Fungus – …

The Great Famine was a disaster that hit Ireland between 1845 and about 1851, causing the deaths of about 1 million people and the flight or emigration of up to 2.5 million more over the course of about six years.

Irish Potato Famine | fight intolerance

This set of ethnic prejudices, which have now been abundantly documented, had the general effect of prompting British ministers, civil servants, and politicians to view and to treat the Catholic Irish as something less than fully human. Such prejudices encouraged the spread of 'famine fatigue' in Britain at an early stage, and they dulled or even extinguished the active sympathies that might have sustained political will - the will to combat the gross oppression of mass evictions, to alleviate the immense suffering associated with reliance on the poor-law system, and to grapple with the moral indefensibility of mass death in the midst of an absolute sufficiency of food.