Museum Exhibition Dates & Times

irish famine farm labourer
Stephens Green Shopping Centre

Museum Exhibition Location

Famine Museum Artefacts

Famine Museum Artefacts

Irish Famine Book

Sultan of Turkey Letter


Heart touching!
A nice exposition about the dramatic event that took place in the 19th century that moved me and sensitized me.

Regis T

A moving and well-balanced account of Ireland great hunger.
A logical, thorough and well-organised education on the Irish potato famine.
The short film was poignant, evocative and brought the history to life. A real tragedy
that this exhibition is not permanent as it is such a devastating and important part of Irish history.


So Poignant
My mom really wanted to see this so I went along and I'm so glad I did. I knew a bit about ireland and the potato famine but very few details. While the exhibit isn't flashy or very eye catching when you walk in,
the history and information on display is incredible. I went on quite a few tours while in Dublin but didn't
learn as much anywhere else. The story is shocking and sad but is something that should definitely be told.
It took about an hour to read everything and watch the brief video, and the man working at the desk was more
than happy to talk to us more and give us even more information. I would recommend this to anyone.

Lisa R

Reference Manuals

Famine Pot

Famine Soup Pot
Irish Famine Museum

The Famine in Mayo

Other Famine References in Dublin

Famine Exhibition

Unit 200B
Stephen's Green Shopping Centre
Saint Stephen's Green
Dublin 2
D02 XY76

Get directions

What was the Great Irish Famine?

The Great Irish Famine, also known as the Irish Potato Famine or the Great Hunger, was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1852. The primary cause of the famine was a potato disease known as late blight, which destroyed the potato crops, upon which a significant portion of the Irish population relied for sustenance.

The famine in Ireland had devastating consequences, with approximately one million people dying from starvation and disease, and another million emigrating from Ireland, mainly to the United States and Canada. The British government's response to the famine has been a subject of historical debate, with critics arguing that its policies exacerbated the crisis, while others contend that the government's efforts were inadequate in addressing the scale of the disaster. Irelands potato famine profoundly impacted Irish society and culture, shaping the course of Irish history and influencing patterns of Irish emigration for generations to come.

Causes and contributing factors of the Great Irish Famine?

The Great Famine in Ireland had multiple causes and contributing factors:

1. Dependence on Potatoes: The Irish population relied heavily on potatoes as a staple food crop. The high-yield and nutritional value of potatoes made them a primary source of sustenance for many poor rural Irish families.

2. Monoculture: The overreliance on a single crop, particularly the Lumper potato variety, led to vulnerability to diseases such as late blight (Phytophthora infestans). When the blight struck in 1845, it quickly spread throughout Ireland, devastating the potato harvest for several years in a row.

3. Landownership and Agricultural Practices: The majority of Irish peasants were tenant farmers who rented small plots of land from absentee British landlords. These landlords often focused on maximizing profits through cash crops like grain or raising livestock, rather than supporting diversified agriculture. This system left many Irish farmers with tiny plots of land that were not economically viable for growing anything other than potatoes.

4. British Policies: British economic and trade policies exacerbated the famine's impact. The exportation of food continued during the famine years, as Irish grain and livestock were exported to Britain even as the Irish population suffered from starvation and disease. Additionally, the British government's laissez-faire approach to the crisis and reliance on inadequate relief efforts further compounded the suffering.

5. Social and Political Factors: The socio-economic and political conditions in Ireland at the time also contributed to the severity of the famine. The Penal Laws, which discriminated against Catholics and restricted land ownership, had lasting effects on Irish society. Additionally, the lack of representation for the Irish Catholic majority in the British Parliament hindered efforts to address the crisis effectively.

6. Poor Relief Efforts: The response of both the British government and local authorities to the famine was often inadequate. Workhouses, established to provide relief to the poor, were overcrowded and poorly managed, leading to further suffering and disease.

These factors combined to create a perfect storm of conditions that resulted in one of the most devastating famines in European history.

How did the British colonise Ireland?

The colonization of Ireland by the British took place over several centuries and was a complex process involving military conquest, political alliances, economic control, and cultural assimilation. Here's an overview of key events and methods:

  1. Norman Invasion (12th Century): The initial wave of colonization occurred with the Norman invasion of Ireland in the late 12th century. Led by the Anglo-Norman knight Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, and sanctioned by the English monarchy, this invasion established English control over parts of Ireland, particularly in the eastern and southern regions. The Normans introduced feudalism and established a system of land ownership that laid the groundwork for centuries of English influence.

  1. English Crown Authority (Late Middle Ages): Over the following centuries, the English Crown sought to assert its authority over Ireland through a combination of military campaigns, diplomatic alliances, and colonization efforts. English monarchs granted lands to loyal nobles and settlers, displacing indigenous Irish landholders and establishing English control over key territories.

  1. Plantations (16th and 17th Centuries): The Plantations of Ireland were a series of colonization schemes implemented by the English Crown during the 16th and 17th centuries. These involved confiscating land from Irish landowners, particularly in areas perceived as rebellious or disloyal, and redistributing it to English and Scottish settlers. The most significant plantations occurred in Ulster, Munster, and Leinster, leading to the displacement of many native Irish inhabitants and the establishment of Protestant settlements.

  1. Religious Conflicts and Penal Laws: The religious conflicts of the Reformation era further fueled tensions between the native Catholic Irish population and the Protestant English authorities. The Penal Laws, enacted in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, imposed severe restrictions on Catholics, including limitations on land ownership, education, and political rights. These laws reinforced English control while marginalizing the Catholic Irish population.

  1. Act of Union (1801): The Act of Union of 1801 formally merged the Kingdom of Ireland with the Kingdom of Great Britain, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. While this union theoretically granted Irish representatives a voice in the British Parliament, Irish grievances continued, leading to calls for political reform and eventual independence.

Overall, British colonization of Ireland involved a combination of military conquest, economic exploitation, social engineering, and cultural assimilation, shaping the course of Irish history and influencing the relationship between Ireland and Britain for centuries.

Landlords and Tenants

Before Irelands Great Famine of the mid-19th century, the land system in Ireland was characterized by a combination of factors that had evolved over centuries, including feudalism, landlordism, and tenant farming. Here's an overview of the key features:

  1. Feudal Origins: The land system in Ireland had its roots in medieval feudalism, where land was granted by the monarch to nobles in exchange for loyalty and military service. These nobles, known as lords or landowners, held vast estates and exercised control over the land and its inhabitants.

Landlordism: Over time, the system evolved into one of landlordism, where absentee English and Anglo-Irish landlords owned large estates in Ireland. Many of these landlords lived in England or on their estates in Ireland and relied on agents to manage their Irish properties. These absentee landlords often had little connection to or understanding of the Irish tenants living on their land.

Tenant Farming: The majority of the Irish population were tenant farmers who rented small plots of land from the landlords. These tenants worked the land in exchange for rent payments, typically paid in cash or a portion of their harvest. Tenant farmers were often subject to harsh and exploitative rental agreements, with rents sometimes consuming a significant portion of their meager incomes.

Subdivision of Land: Land holdings in Ireland were often subdivided over generations due to partible inheritance, a custom where land was divided equally among heirs. This practice led to the fragmentation of land holdings into smaller and smaller plots, making it increasingly difficult for tenant farmers to achieve economic viability.

Rack-Renting and Evictions: Many landlords engaged in rack-renting, where they charged exorbitant rents that tenants struggled to pay. Failure to pay rent often resulted in eviction, leaving families homeless and destitute. Evictions were a common occurrence, especially during times of economic hardship or when landlords sought to consolidate their holdings.

Limited Tenant Rights: Tenant farmers had few legal rights and protections, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by landlords. The lack of security of tenure meant that tenants could be evicted at the landlord's whim, leading to widespread insecurity and fear among the rural population.

Overall, the land system in Ireland before the famine was characterized by a concentration of landownership among a small elite, widespread poverty and inequality among tenant farmers, and a lack of legal protections for tenants. These conditions laid the groundwork for the widespread devastation and suffering that occurred during the Great Famine.

Why is the Great Irish Famine also called The Great Hunger?

The Great Famine is often referred to as the "Great Hunger" because it accurately reflects the severity and magnitude of the suffering experienced by the Irish population during that time. While the term "famine" typically refers to a shortage of food resulting in widespread hunger and starvation, "Great Hunger" conveys the profound and enduring impact of the event on Irish society and culture.

Here are a few reasons why the term "Great Hunger in Ireland" is used to describe the famine:

Magnitude of Suffering: The Great Famine was not just a temporary shortage of food; it was a humanitarian catastrophe of immense proportions. Approximately one million people died from starvation and disease, while millions more were forced to emigrate due to extreme poverty and deprivation.

Impact on Irish Society: The great famine in Ireland had far-reaching consequences for Irish society, causing irreparable damage to families, communities, and cultural institutions. The loss of life and mass emigration reshaped the demographic and social landscape of Ireland for generations to come.

  1. Long-Term Trauma: The trauma of Irelands potato famine reverberated throughout Irish history, influencing attitudes towards British rule, land ownership, and poverty. The memory of the famine and its effects on Irish identity and national consciousness remain deeply ingrained in Irish culture and collective memory.

Political and Economic Context: The term "Great Hunger" also acknowledges the political and economic factors that contributed to the famine, including British colonial policies, landlordism, and social inequality. It highlights the role of systemic failures and injustices in exacerbating the crisis and prolonging the suffering of the Irish population.

Overall, referring to the famine as the "Great Hunger" emphasizes not only the physical deprivation and loss of life but also the broader social, political, and economic dimensions of the tragedy. It acknowledges the magnitude of the suffering experienced by the Irish people and the enduring legacy of the famine in Irish history and memory.