Second Year: From Farm to Factory: Rural Ireland

The Irish Famine memorial in Dublin city.
The last part of the Second Year course brings us back to Ireland, where exciting things will be happening at the start of Third Year. Since the 1798 rebellion, Ireland was made a part of the UK. Irish MPs sat in the House of Commons in Westminster. Some of them wanted to bring Ireland back out of the UK.

Ireland didn't experience the Industrial Revolution the same way Britain did. Urbanisation and industry came to Ulster, but the rest of Ireland remained rural, with millions of people living in poverty. The population of Ireland by 1840 was 8.2 million. Today, 6.3 million people live on the island.

In the 1840s, an event happened which turned public opinion against the British and encouraged new groups seeking to take Ireland out of the UK. You may have learned about this event before in primary school: The Great Famine.

The first part of this section, Industrial England, is here.

Go back to Second Year

Ordinary Level students should focus on the Special Topic, which is in *asterisks*.
  • Life in rural Ireland before the famine (types of farmers, landlords and labourers)
  • Poverty and the workhouses.
  • The causes of the Great Famine.
  • Help for the Famine victims (Indian corn, soup kitchens, workhouses)
  • The results of the Famine.
  • *Contrasting industrial England with rural Ireland. (People in History)*

Click here for advice and tips on answering exam questions.


1. Give two consequences for Ireland of the Great Famine. (2015 HL, 2012 HL, 2008 HL)

2. Mention one action taken by the British government to deal with the Great Famine of the 1840s.
    (2009 HL)

3. What was the 'Blight' in 1840s Ireland? (2007 HL)

4. Choose one of the following terms from the Great Famine and explain it: (2012 OL)
              Eviction;       Charity;       Blight

5. Why were Irish people in such fear of living in the Workhouse? (2011 OL)

6. Give one reason why so many people died during the Great Famine. (2009 OL)


Q.5C, 2006 HL

Write an account of one of the following topics:    (12)

(i)     The impact of the Famine on Irish society after 1850.
(ii)    The problems faced by Irish emigrants abroad after the Famine.
(iii)   Contrasting lifestyles in rural Ireland and industrial England around 1850.


See the first part of this section, Industrial England, for People in History questions.

The Jeanie Johnston replica at sail outside Dublin.
Photo from
Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Museum
The Jeanie Johnston was one of the coffin ships which carried Irish people to other countries. A replica of it sits in Dublin, where it can be toured by the public. It also serves as a Famine museum.

The Irish Potato Famine
This Flash-based interactive site is designed for kids, but still has a lot of interesting information about life during the Famine.

Overview of the Great Famine
The History Learning site has the story of the Famine here.

Potato Blight
Learn about the disease that killed the potato crops here.

Coffin Ships
Learn more about the so-called "coffin ships" which transported emigrants to America and elsewhere.