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Irish History: The 1800s

The 19th Century was a Critical Period of Rebellion and Famine in Ireland


The 19th century dawned in Ireland in the wake of the widespread uprising of 1798, which was brutally suppressed by the British. The revolutionary spirit endured and would reverberate in Ireland throughout the 1800s.

In the 1840s the Great Famine ravaged Ireland, forcing millions facing starvation to leave the island for a better life in America.

In the cities of the United States, new chapters of Irish history were bring written in exile as Irish-Americans rose to positions of prominence, participated with distinction in the Civil War, and agitated to oust British rule from their homeland.

The Great Famine

Irish Emigrants Leaving Home
New York Public Library
The Great Famine ravaged Ireland in the 1840s and became a turning point for Ireland and America as millions of Irish emigrants boarded boats bound for American shores.

Illustration titled "Irish Emigrants Leaving Home - The Priest's Blessing" courtesy of New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Daniel O'Connell, the "Liberator"

Daniel O'Connell
Library of Congress
The central figure of Irish history in the first half of the 19th century was Daniel O'Connell, a Dublin lawyer who had been born in rural Kerry. O'Connell's relentless efforts led to some measures of emancipation for Irish Catholics who had been marginalized by British laws, and O'Connell attained heroic status, becoming known as "The Liberator."

Ireland's Big Wind

A freak storm that struck the west of Ireland in 1839 resonated for decades. In a rural society where weather forecasting was based on superstition, and timekeeping was equally eccentric, the "Big Wind" became a boundary in time that was even utilized, seven decades later, by British bureaucrats.

Classic Irish History Books

Cloyne, County Cork
John Murry Publisher, 1824/now in public domain
Many classic texts on Irish history were published in the 1800s, and a number of them have been digitized and can be downloaded. Learn about these books and their authors and help yourself to a digital bookshelf of classic Irish history.

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