The Irish Land War, In 24 Heartbreaking Photographs
In the mid-19th century, after years of being ravaged by famine, Irish farmers were being forced out of their own homes. English landlords started evicting tenants across Ireland – but the farmers had had enough. They fought back – and started the Irish Land War.
Countless farmers across Ireland at the time lived on rented land owned by Englishmen, most of which were absentee landlords who would hire corrupt middlemen to squeeze every possible penny out of their tenants.
Sometimes, that meant cranking up their rents to rates that no person could afford. And other times, it just meant kicking them out onto the streets – even if they hadn’t missed a single payment.
But the Irish farmers refused to move. They barricaded their homes and organized mobs who, when the police came to kick them out, were ready and willing to fight them off.
Soon, the police started showing up at the farmers' doorsteps with battering rams, ladders, and even torches. They would smash through walls, tears up rooftops and burn houses to the ground in order to get these people out. They would leave the farmers' homes in cinders, destroying the very property that they’d come to claim just to make sure that no one could live there at all.
These were the days when Irish Nationalism started to grow. It was around this time that groups like the Irish Republican Brotherhood started to form – groups that would one day evolve into the I.R.A.
Sometimes, this nationalism would turn violent. A man named Peter Dempsey was gunned down in front of his daughters on his way to church, killed for moving into the home of an evicted farmer. Shortly after, a group calling themselves The Invincibles murdered two politicians in a park for being loyalists to the British Empire.
In time, the laws changed and things calmed down. The Irish Land War came to an end – but nothing was the same. After a great famine and a violent battle for their very homes, the hearts of Ireland were forever changed.
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.