Irish troubles likely to prompt mass exodus of emigrants, says historian

Historians in the News

After enjoying nearly two decades of an unprecedented economic prosperity at home, many Irish are now seeking to leave for greener pastures elsewhere as the nation finds itself on the brink of an economic collapse.

This new phenomena actually would restore the paradigm Ireland has historically been associated with ever since the potato famine of the 1840s -- a country of mass emigration....

The story of Irish emigration stretches back 170 years to the tragic days of the potato famine in the 1840s.

According to Kerby A. Miller, a professor of history at the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo., and the author of several books about Irish emigration patterns, between 1845 and 1855 (the worst years of the famine), about 1.2-million people are believed to have died, while 1.5-million emigrated overseas, primarily to the United States (another 200,000 to 300,000 are believed to have moved permanently to Great Britain). All told, more than 2.1-million Irish (about one-fourth of the pre-famine population) left the country.

As a result, Ireland’s population plunged and has never recovered.

While those numbers are shocking, the famine tragedy began a tradition of emigration that has touched nearly every Irish generation ever since....

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