Increasing industrialisation and urbanisation have had profound effects on food in Ireland over the past few centuries. During the early 19th century, agriculture was the mainstay of the Irish economy. Although there was an extensive export trade, most crops and animals produced in Ireland were consumed here. Some sectors of society also made use of imported luxury foods. At the rear of this section, an early 19th-century cluster of houses and farm buildings at Moyveela, Co. Galway, are shown, uncovered by archaeologists in advance of construction of the N18 roadway (Illustrator: Dan Tietzsch- Tyler; image courtesy of Transport Infrastructure Ireland). You can find out more about Moyveela by downloading the archaeological excavation report here: https://repository.dri.ie/catalog/8c980532c.


Potatoes (Solanum tuberosum L.) were a key food for many people in early-19th century Ireland. Much land was given over to the growing of different varieties of potatoes to support a rapidly expanding population, with smallholders playing an important role in production. Archaeological evidence for potatoes is rather limited because such tubers do not tend to become preserved. Innovative scientific techniques, such as starch-granule analysis, are providing new pathways, however, to understanding the role of this iconic food in Ireland’s past.

Soon after the period depicted in Section 4 (200 years ago), the Great Famine occurred in Ireland, decimating the potato crop and resulting in starvation, disease and emigration for many citizens.

Industrial Society