There are many aspects of history that often go ignored in comparison to others. For example, nearly everyone has heard about World War I and II yet few people know about smaller events like the histories behind many great disasters such as famine. History is a subject that is often overlooked in today’s schoolrooms that are test obsessed and seemingly focus all attention on math and English. Yet learning history is important—even the lesser known aspects of history—and parents who homeschool have the ability to offer their children a better rounded education by including history on the curriculum.
One of the biggest disasters in history that is rarely taught about in any detail in American schools is that of the Great Hunger that occurred in Ireland in the 1800s. The Irish Famine (also referred to as “The Great Famine”) occurred between the years of 1845 and 1852. The event affected most of rural Ireland and led to mass starvation, disease and emigration of much of the population. It is believed that around one million people died in the famine and one million more emigrated. Until this day, Ireland’s population has never returned to where it was pre-famine and much of the emigration that shaped America was directly related to this event.
Until this day the Irish Famine is a source of much controversy, debate and bitterness. Although the famine itself was caused by potato disease (at a time when most Irish people were poor and depended on potatoes for their livelihood), many people attribute the utter devastation of the country to the oppressive rule of the English who occupied Ireland at that time. Ethnic, religious, and classist prejudices heightened the miseries of the famine and resulted in even deeper resentments between the Irish and the English that still linger until this day.
The Irish Famine is not a subject that is taught in detail outside of the Republic of Ireland. However, Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut recently opened “The Great Hunger Museum.” This museum is dedicated entirely to information about the famine including letters and documents written during the time period and newspaper reports about the events during that time. Period artwork such as paintings and sculptures that depicted famine conditions are on display and there is even a historical 15 minute documentary about the event. The upstairs section of the museum includes modern day artwork that is done in response to the history of the famine.
Although the Irish Famine is long over it should not be forgotten. History is doomed to repeat itself if it is not remembered and understood. Famine conditions still exist today, mostly in parts of Africa (see video) and to understand the magnitude of famine a trip to this museum is an excellent learning experience.
For more information visit: http://www.thegreathunger.org/Museum/