President Joe Biden

While Britain flourished with the Industrial Revolution since the 18th century, economic conditions in Ireland were poor. This disparity was partly due to religious differences: Ireland was predominantly Catholic, while the rest of the UK was Protestant, leading to feelings of neglect by the London government.

Two-thirds of the Irish population still depended on farming, with potatoes being the staple crop and primary food source. In the mid-19th century, a devastating fungus destroyed the potato crops. By 1850, Ireland’s prized potato crops had died out completely.

The Great Irish Famine caused the first mass migration of Irish people to the United States. The effects of the famine continued to spur Irish immigration well into the 20th century.

The Great Irish Famine

Starvation and disease claimed around a million lives between 1845 and 1850, while nearly twice that number emigrated to other countries, with a majority heading to the United States. The persistent lack of industry and widespread poverty drove many impoverished Catholic farmers and labourers to seek new opportunities in the U.S.

People Leaving Ireland

Many people also arrived in the UK and found work in the railways. By 1861, there were sizable Irish populations in cities like London, Liverpool, Manchester, and Glasgow.

Working in railways in England

In the USA, Irish people have made significant contributions, with at least 22 presidents of the United States having Irish ancestral origins. This includes the last Democratic President, Barack Obama, as well as the current President as of 2020, Joe Biden, who also have Irish links.

President Barack Obama

What do these stories tell us about immigrants? When the bridges behind us are burned, there is no way back—only forward. In the guide you downloaded (please get it, if you haven’t already), we discuss Benjamin Disraeli, the son of Jewish refugee parents from Italy. He went on to become the Prime Minister of the UK during the Victorian era.

Benjamin Disraeli

It was an incredible feat at that time. Why? The USA is a country built by immigrants, while the UK has a long history rooted in its native population. Winning the trust of the natives in the 19th century was remarkable. On the other hand, it speaks volumes about the opportunities this nation offers to determined individuals. Benjamin Disraeli, the son of Jewish refugee parents from Italy, believed in himself. BELIEVE IN YOURSELVES!