Nick Wilson, "Political Ecology and the Irish Potato Famine"


the potato blight only 25 years before the famines that Davis discusses. Further, Woodham-Smith sees laissez-faire as dominant in the Irish situation as well. "The influence of laissez-faire on the treatment of Ireland during the famine is impossible to exaggerate."54 Therefore, if any famine outside of Davis' period of analysis can be expected to fit his model, it would seem to be the Irish potato blight.

Recall that his first point of articulation is that local farmers are forced to stop producing subsistence crops directly, and must instead produce cash crops and exchange them for food through the market system. They must do this, contends Davis, because they have a better chance of meeting subsistence goals by attempting to farm higher per acre yield crops (which cash crops tended to be.)

This point does not hold true for the small farmers of the Irish famine. Indeed, the fact is that in Ireland, the potato was the highest-yield crop available, and also the best adapted to the Irish growing conditions and geography. At the same time, the potato was both a cash and subsistence crop. The Irish who were most affected by the blight were not those who depended upon market forces and cash crop exchange for their means of subsistence. They were the people who depended directly upon the potatoes that they grew on their own land. They were also not integrated into the market in such a way as to make Davis' first point of articulation valid for Ireland.

Davis' second point of articulation for the increase of vulnerability to famine is that as small farmers are integrated into the world market, they find that the price their goods can command consistently sinks, and that therefore they must enter debt simply to survive. Again, this prospect does not hold true for Ireland. The people most affected by the famine were those

54. Woodham-Smith, 54.
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