ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Famine historiographySubscribe to Famine historiography

Famines in India

The end of the dryland famine around 1900 was of great significance in Indian history. Famine historiography, preoccupied with the Bengal famine of 1943 and shortages of food, obscures why the dryland famine ended and, therefore, misreads why they happened in the first place. This paper suggests that the dryland famines were caused primarily by a shortage of moisture, and secondarily, a shortage of food. Uncoordinated interventions targeting water supply and wider access to water, roughly occurring between 1880 and 1930, played a significant role in their end. It draws the inference that drought-induced famines in India’s past were not caused by food distribution failure, but water supply failure. As episodes of extreme dryness become more likely due to climate change, this history has relevance.
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