The Age of George III

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Famine and emigration hit Ireland: 1817

There were bad harvests in Ireland in 1815 and 1816, resulting in near-famine conditions in 1817. Consequently, emigration levels increased dramatically. During the French Wars, the Irish economy had thrived since the country supplied much of the foodstuff required by the British army. The demand for food had increased employment in Ireland; however, at the end of the wars in 1815, with the Battle of Waterloo, the Irish economy had been hit by depression. Unemployment increased at a time when soldiers and sailors were being demobilised, causing further distress.

Shipowners took advantage of the situation, offering low prices and passage to places such as New Brunswick and Quebec, where the Irish could go for only £5 instead of the £10 needed to sail to America. However, many Irish emigrants went to Scotland and England because it was cheaper. Since shortage of money was a major problem, the few shillings needed to sail to Liverpool was all most emigrants could afford. Most emigrants were labourers or servants. The trend towards emigration to escape the abject poverty in Ireland was to continue throughout the nineteenth century.

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Last modified 12 January, 2016

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