An Unlikely Villain, the Potato
1836 was the first of many years of unseasonably cold summers in Ireland. No one knew what lay ahead, of course: by 1851, almost an eighth of Ireland’s population, a million Irish, would be dead from starvation or disease.
Potatoes, originally from Central and South America, had become a staple crop across much of northern Europe, and as the blight spread, famine stalked all of the region. The hardest hit areas were those most dependent on one crop and those whose governments were negligent or cruel. Ireland and Sweden qualified on both accounts.
In 1836: Year of Escape, the family meets Irishmen who fled the failed 1798 Irish Rebellion, and in 1837, an Irish nun learns about the terrible summer of 1836 in a letter from her family.
This article from History Magazine tells what we know now about the potato disease that spread across Europe and devastated Ireland.
Never quit asking "Why?" This motto works out well for a researcher.