Was the famine in Ireland a watershed in the country's history? There is little doubt that conditions and attitudes in Ireland changed after the Famine, the population declined, the structure of agriculture was altered, housing conditions improved, diet became more varied, marriages became later and fewer. However what has to be determined is to what extent the famine can be held responsible for these changes.
In the agricultural sphere the chief casualties of the Famine were the cottiers, who lived at a substance level and who were therefore particularly susceptive to starvation and disease, cottiers were also those most given to migration. The near disappearance of the cottiers or labourers was linked to the consolidation of holdings in the Famine years and after, for the death, migration or eviction of the poor created opportunities for substantial farmers and landlords, a quarter of all farms disappeared between 1845 and 1851, while the average size of farms increased in the same period. Ireland in the post Famine years was a country of middling farms. During and after the Famine there was a considerable shift away from tillage, which had been a mainstay of Irish agriculture sine the late eighteenth century. Cormac O Grada's investigation of agricultural output on the eve of the Famine reveals a continuing emphasis on tillage, his comparative analysis of Irish agriculture in the 1850's suggests that the impact of the Famine had induced a rapid shift to pastoral farming (O Grada, p118-121). The trend from arable to livestock farming had important implications for the structure of rural society. Pastoral farming was in general less intensive, so those larger farms now enjoyed a relatively greater advantage than before. The failure of the potato crop had all but wiped out the smallest holdings. The decline of tillage had the similar consequences for the large number of farms that owned less than fifteen acres, who .