News in England -- but not of England. The potato blight, a disease that rots and blackens potatoes in the ground, while leaving the leaves looking healthy and green, had hit America in 1844. In 1845 it was reported in Europe and the Isle of Wight, and shortly started spreading throughout England. The English laborer had more and more started relying on the potato as a major food crop, and England was braced for disaster; widespread hunger, perhaps out-and-out famine among the poorer classes, and international trade hit hard.

But also, among those who thought about these things, there was a bigger problem. Ireland was at the peak of a population boom, with the peasantry entirely dependent on the potato crop. After hundreds of years of fuss and rebellion, things had not settled, and the English military was still putting down "dangerous" Irish rallies that were surely riots and rebellion waiting to happen. If the blight reached Ireland, well, who knew what might follow.

On September 13, 1845 the news reached England: Dr. John Lindley, professor of botany at the University of London and editor of the Gardeners' Chronicle and Horticultural Gazette informed his readers "We stop the press to with very great regret to announce that the potato Murrain has unequivocally declared itself in Ireland. The crops about Dublin are suddenly perishing."

Thus started the an Drochshao, four years during which starvation became the norm, during which a million Irish died slowly in Ireland and another million fled overseas. During this time England denied food aid and freedom of movement, and food continued to be shipped out of Ireland as the farmers growing it starved. It is a case study in poverty traps, government mismanagement, and colonialism gone wrong on every level.

On the 13th, most people didn't know what was happening. The Irish farmers had been looking forward to a bumper potato crop, and early harvests of new potatoes had been larger than expected. The English government was braced for another famine, but they always were. The Irish were scorned as lazy, poor, and unable to manage themselves; another famine was not new or interesting, just annoying. Only a few had clearly seen the crises coming, and they were both unable to handle this crises, and about to make some entirely explicable mistakes. And thus started the Irish potato famine.