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The Great Hunger

By Linda Tancs

Phytophthora infestans, the fungus that causes potato blight, invaded parts of Ireland in August, 1845. By the following year, the blight had devastated the harvest throughout the country. Heavily dependent on the crop, the resulting famine caused widespread death and poverty as well as emigration for those who could afford to do so. The Great Hunger, as it’s called, was one of the first national disasters to elicit international fundraising. The magnitude of this event is chronicled at The Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. The museum is one of many locales memorializing this tragedy in the United States. Other memorials exist in many locations throughout Ireland and also in cities around the world with large populations descended from immigrants affected by the famine.

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