Potato Research

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 5–45

The Potato Murrain on the European Continent and the Revolutions of 1848

Article

DOI: 10.1007/s11540-008-9091-4

Cite this article as:
Zadoks, J.C. Potato Res. (2008) 51: 5. doi:10.1007/s11540-008-9091-4

Abstract

The tale of the Irish Famine, 1845–1849, following the outbreak of potato late blight, has been told repeatedly, but the parallel story of the Continental Famine, 1845–1847, has not yet been recorded. The Continental Famine was caused by poor harvests of potatoes, due to the same late blight, but also of grain, due to frost, drought, rust, voles, inopportune rains, floods and hailstorms. The Continental Famine was enhanced by hoarding, speculation, and poor governance. Hunger was followed by infectious diseases. The demographic effects of hunger and diseases are difficult to disentangle. The number of excess deaths due to the Continental Famine cannot yet be determined with any precision, but clearly it approaches that of the Irish Famine. The harvest failures of 1845 and 1846 and the resulting famines came on top of rural pauperisation and urban discontent, and thus contributed to the revolutions of 1848 on the European Continent. The statement ‘an epidemic of potato late blight caused an epidemic of revolutions’ is, perhaps, exaggerated but it contains a grain of truth.

Keywords

Crop loss Drought damage Epidemics Famine Financial crisis Pauperism 

Abbreviations

~

approximately

D

Dutch

G

German

F

French

N

north

E

east

S

south

W

west

M

middle

NL

The Netherlands

kg

kilogram

tonne

1000 kg

l

litre

hl

(hectolitre)100 litre

d

day

y

year

Copyright information

© EAPR 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Emeritus Professor of Phytopathology of Wageningen UniversityAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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