The great famine in Ireland- Terminale- Anglais - Maxicours

The great famine in Ireland

Objectif

Découvrir un épisode crucial de l'histoire contemporaine de l'Irlande. 

Points clés
  • Sous le joug anglais depuis de nombreux siècles, la domination de l'Irlande par la couronne britannique est entérinée par l'Union Act en 1800.
  • S'ensuivent l'apparition de troubles politiques, notamment pour raisons politiques (les Irlandais sont à majorité catholique, alors qu'en Angleterre domine le protestantisme). 
  • L'activité de l'Irlande est tournée autour de l'agriculture. Les paysans irlandais cultivent presque exclusivement la pomme de terre pour le compte de grands propriétaires terriens anglais ou écossais. 
  • La pomme de terre était destinée à l'exportation vers l'Angleterre, mais constituait également la base de l'alimentation des paysans. 
  • En 1846, les graines plantées pourrissent, entraînant une famine catastrophique qui dura jusqu'en 1850, provoquant la mort d'1,5 millions d'Irlandais, et l'émigration d'autant d'entre eux vers les Etats-Unis.
  • Le ressentiment du peuple irlandais contre l'inaction du pouvoir anglais pendant cet épisode a contribué à la naissance des actions de rébellion pour l'indépendance de l'Irlande.
1. Historical background
Ireland first came under English control in 1175, when the Irish king, Rory O'Connor, swore allegiance to Henry II, the King of England. O'Connor and his descendants became vassals of the king of England.

In 1541, Henry VIII, the king of England, directly claimed the throne of Ireland. From then on, the land of Ireland was gradually taken over by English and Scottish settlers who obeyed the orders of the English kings.The Irish peasants often tried to rebel against their English landowners but they couldn't shake the yoke of their invaders.

English domination was completed in 1800 when the English Parliament voted the Union Act which made Ireland part of the United Kingdom. Political unrest then began in Ireland.
The situation was made worse by the fact that the Irish were mostly Catholics, whereas the English were Protestants.

2. The great potato famine
By the middle of the nineteenth century, most Irish people were peasants who worked the land for their English masters.
The landlords were English, or Scottish, and they didn't live on their Irish estates. They became known as "the absentee landlords": they lived far away and had very little contact with their tenants in Ireland.

The main crop in Ireland was the potato. It was the staple diet of the Irish peasants, and it also provided food for the rest of the United Kingdom.

In 1846, however, the potato crop failed, and the seeds went rotten. The potato blight went on for four years. There was very little food in Ireland, and the British government of Lord Russell, under Queen Victoria, didn't do anything to help relieve the famine.
Between 1846 and 1850, one and a half million Irish people died of starvation.
Another one and a half million left Ireland forever. They emigrated mostly to the United States of America.

The population of Ireland fell from about 8 million people in 1845 to under 5 million by 1850. It still hasn't returned to its 1845 level today.

3. Consequences of the great potato famine
The attitude of the British government and landlords during the famine contributed a great deal to the renewal of anti-British feeling in Ireland.
Irish Catholics began to organize for rebellion. Irish people who had emigrated to the USA never forgot their origins and why they had to leave their homeland.
In 1858, O'Mahoney founded the Fenian Brotherhood in the USA. They began to organize support for rebellion, mostly in terms of money and arms supply.
It marked the beginning of terrorist actions for the independence of Ireland.

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