This path was created by Derek James Rachel.  The last update was by Amanda Lundeen.

Star of the Sea : A Postcolonial/Postmodern Voyage into the Irish Famine

The Emigration Decision

There are multiple reasons why massive emigration can happen in countries all over the world. According to Arup Maharatna, “large-scale food scarcity and associated mass hunger and starvation have historically acted as major forces […] toward a region or country with better food availability and greater prospects for food production” (Maharatna 277). The reason why people emigrate is to find better options for food and survival, therefore they are attracted to more prosperous places if their area is affected by a famine. Because of the utter lack of survival and food in Ireland, the Irish population was looking for another place to settle down with enough food to eat. Food scarcity hit the entire European continent at the same time; therefore, emigration led people back and forth across the continents.

People from any parts of society would be able to emigrate, as long as they had enough money for the fare. If they could not afford it themselves, at least they needed to have someone paying for them. The majority of the Irish population that either died or emigrated “were tenants […] with fewer than ten acres, cottiers, or landless laborers, many of whom (perhaps as many as one million!) had been evicted from their holdings” (Miller, “Emigration” 215). These were the people that were in the part of society that would get little to no help from government officials or direct famine relief. Therefore, they had to find ways to survive on their own. 

Altogether 5,000 ships sailed across the Atlantic with Irish emigrants during the famine. With a large portion of the Irish population journeying on these ships to greener pastures, it is evident that the British government was happy that the problem was solving itself. According to James S. Donnelly, “Almost 1.5 million sailed to the United States; another 340,000 embarked for British North America; 200,000-300,000 settled permanently in Great Britain; and several thousand more went to Australia and elsewhere” (Donnelly 178). These high numbers show that emigration was the final solution for these people as they deliberately chose the country they wanted to resettle in.

Some areas of Ireland were in better shape than the more distressed unions; therefore, the rate of emigration would also differ accordingly. According to James S. Donnelly, “three areas stand out as having experienced high or very high rates of emigration: south Ulster, north Connacht, and much of the Leinster midlands” (Donnelly 182). There might be several reasons as to why these three districts had a higher number of emigrants, but it might have been due to its worse-off situation than others. The high statistics were usually blamed either on frequent rate of evictions or rising rates, which caused the Irish to emigrate quicker than in other unions.

Works Cited 
Donnelly, James S. The Great Irish Potato Famine. Phoenix Mill: Sutton Publishing, 2001. Print.

Maharatna, Arup. “Food Scarcity and Migration: An Overview.” Social Research: An International Quarterly 81.2 (2014): 277-298. Web.

Miller, Kerby A. “Emigration to North American in the Era of the Great Famine, 1845-55.” Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. Ed. John Crowley, William J. Smyth, and Mike Murphy. New York: New York University Press, 2012. Print.

Smyth, William J. “Exodus from Ireland—Patterns of Emigration.” Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. Ed. John Crowley, William J. Smyth, and Mike Murphy. New York: New York University Press, 2012. Print.
Researcher/Writer: Ellen-Marie Pedersen
Technical Designers: Derek Rachel and Amanda Lundeen

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