“The Irish Potato Famine”
Summary: This film chronicles the events of the ‘Irish Potato Famine’. This was a
multiple year event between 1840-1845 when Ireland lost almost half her population
because of a failure of the potato crop, the main food staple in the Irish diet. The events in
themselves were horrific. It is very easy to ‘take sides’ and cast blame for the events.
However, this is not our purpose. Our purpose is to uncover evidence of the dominate
social philosophy of the “market ideal”.
By the end of this video you should be able to:
1. Explain some of the factors contributing to the Irish Potato famine. Where were
the elements ‘recurrent scheme’ that once in place made the famine inevitable
when the potato crop failed.
2. Explain the importance of ‘the individual’ and “market’ in the social philosophy
of the Victorian era.
3. Explain how the social philosophy of the Industrial Revolution contributed to the
problem and failed to provide workable solutions.
4. Identify of the dominant social philosophy.
Question to focus you viewing.
1. Why did the potato become a staple in the Irish diet?
2. What was the social consequence of potato culture?
3. Who was Robert Townshend? How did he exemplify the “Market Ideal” in his
approach to the social problems of the famine?
4. What were workhouses? How did they exemplify the dominant social philosophy
of the period?
5. Landowners closed the small tenant farms on their lands when they were forced to
pay taxes based on the number of tenants. How did this principle of taxation
exemplify the dominant social philosophy?
6. Were the Churches (Catholic and Protestant) immune to the dominant social
philosophy? Offer example to support your view.
7. Describe what problems the dominant social philosophy could not solve that
required a rethinking of the relationship of the individual and society.