Hidden History: The Potato Famine and the Rise of Irish Nationalism

The Story of Ireland Part 4 (1801-1900)

BBC

Film Review

In 1801, the British Parliament passed the Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland, official incorporation Ireland into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Highlights of this period include the Potato Famine (1841-1846) led one million Irish tenant farmers to die of starvation and disease and 1.5 million to emigrate to England and the US.

The Fenian Brotherhood, a revolutionary organization which began in Ireland in the 1860s, gave rise to a sister Fenian Brotherhood in the US. The latter raised major sums of money they sent back to Ireland to save poor tenant farmers from eviction.

In 1881, British Prime Minister William Gladstone passed a number of laws sought by Irish reformers, including legal protection for Irish tenant farmers against eviction and rent increases and the right to purchase their own land. He also repealed the Penal Laws that required Catholics (the majority of the Irish population) and Ulster Calvinists to pay taxes supporting the Anglican Church and preventing them from voting or standing for office.

He also supported Irish nationalist MP Charles Parnell’s bill establishing Home Rule for Ireland (Gladstone needed the votes of Parnell’s MPs to remain in office). It was defeated by 30 votes.

In 1899 when the Boer Republics revolted against British rule, numerous Irish nationalists (including Arthur Griffith – the eventual founder of Sinn Fein*) traveled to South Africa to  support the Boers in the war against the British.


*Sinn Fein is an Irish republican party formed in 1905 in support of Irish independence and unification.

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