Online Encyclopedia

FAMINE (Lat. fames, hunger)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 168 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!

FAMINE (
See also:
Lat. fames,
See also:
hunger)
  , extreme and general scarcity of food, causing
See also:
distress and deaths from
See also:
starvation among the population of a
See also:
district or country . Famines have caused wide-spread suffering in all countries and ages . A list of the chief famines recorded by
See also:
history is given farther on . The causes of famine are partly natural and partly artificial . Among the natural causes may be classed all failures of crops due to excess or defect of rainfall and other meteorological phenomena, or to the ravages of
See also:
insects and vermin . Among the artificial causes may be classed war and economic errors in the production, transport and sale of food-stuffs . The natural causes of famine are still mainly outside our control, though science enables agriculturists to combat them more successfully, and the improvement in means of transport allows a rich harvest in one
See also:
land to supplement the defective Breaking up of
See also:
totemism . 'crops in another . In tropical countries drought is the commonest cause of a failure in the harvest, and where
See also:
great droughts are not uncommon—as in parts of India and Australia—the
See also:
hydraulic engineer comes to the rescue by devising systems of
See also:
water-storage and irrigation . It is less easy to provide against the evils of excessive rainfall and of frost, hail and the like . The experience of the French in Algiers shows that it is possible to stamp out a plague of locusts, such as is the greatest danger to the farmer in many parts of
See also:
Argentina . But the ease with which food can nowadays be transported from one
See also:
part of the
See also:
world to another minimizes the danger of famine from natural causes, as we can hardly conceive that the whole food-producing
See also:
area of the world should be thus affected at once .

The artificial causes of famine have mostly ceased to be operative on any large

scale . Chief among them is war, which may cause a shortage of food - supplies, either by its
See also:
direct ravages or by depleting the supply of agricultural labour . But only
See also:
local famines are likely to arise from this cause . Legislative interference with agricultural operations or with the distribution of food-supplies, currency restrictions and failure of transport, which have all caused famines in the past, are unlikely thus to operate again; nor is it probable that the
See also:
modern speculators who attempt to make " corners " in wheat could produce the evil effects contemplated in the old statutes against forestallers and regrators . Such local famines as may occur in the 20th century will probably be attributable to natural causes . It is impossible to regulate the rainfall of any district, or wholly to supply its failure by any
See also:
system of water-storage . Irrigation is better able to bring fertility to a naturally arid district than to avert the failure of crops in one which is naturally fertile . The true palliative of famine is to be found in the improvement of methods of transport, which make it possible rapidly to convey food from one district to another . But the efficiency of this preventive stops short at the point of saving human
See also:
life . It cannot prevent a rise in prices, with the consequent suffering among the poor . Still, every
See also:
year makes it less likely that the world will see a renewal of the great famines of the past, and it is only the countries where
See also:
civilization is still backward that are in much danger of even a local famine . Great Famines.—Amongst the great famines of history may be named the following: B.C .

436 Famine at

Rome, when thousands of starving
See also:
people threw themselves into the Tiber . \.D.42 Great famine in
See also:
Egypt . 650 Famine throughout India . 879 Universal famine . 941, 1022 Great famines in India, in which entire provinces and 1033 were depopulated and man was driven to
See also:
cannibalism . 1005 Famine in England . 1016 Famine throughout
See also:
Europe .. 1064-1072 Seven years' famine in Egypt . 1148-1159 Eleven years' famine in India . 1162 Universal famine . 1344-1345 Great famine in India, when the Mogul emperor was unable to obtain the necessaries for his house-hold . The famine continued for years and thousands upon thousands of people perished of want .

1396-1407 The

See also:
Durga Devi famine in India, lasting twelve years . 1586 Famine in England which gave rise to the Poor Law system . 1661 Famine in India, when not a drop of rain fell for two years . 1769-1770 Great famine in Bengal, when a third of the population (to,000,000 persons) perished . 1783 The Chalisa famine in India, which extended from the eastern edge of the
See also:
Benares province to
See also:
Lahore and
See also:
Jammu . 1790-1792 The Doji Bara, or
See also:
skull famine, in India, so-called because the people died in such numbers that they could not be buried . According to tradition this was one of the severest famines ever known . It extended over the whole of Bombay into Hyderabad and affected the
See also:
northern districts of
See also:
Madras .
See also:
Relief
See also:
works were first opened during this famine in Madras . A.D . 1838 Intense famine in North-West Provinces (
See also:
United Provinces) of India; 800,000 perished . Famine in Ireland, due to the failure of the potato-crop .

Grants were made by

parliament amounting to £10,000,000 . 1861 Famine in North-West India . 1866 Famine in Bengal and
See also:
Orissa; one million perished . 1869 Intense famine in
See also:
Rajputana; one million and a
See also:
half perished . The government initiated the policy of saving life . 1874 Famine in Behar, India . Government relief ir' excess of the needs of the people . 1876-1878 Famine in Bombay, Madras and
See also:
Mysore; five millions perish . Relief insufficient . 1877-1878 Severe famine in north
See also:
China . Nine and a half millions said to have perished . 1887-1889 Famine in China .

1891-1892 Famine in

Russia . 1897 Famine in India . Government policy of saving life successful . Mansion House fund £550,000 . 1899-1901 Famine in India . One million people perished . Estimated loss to India £50,000,000 . The government spent £10,000,000 on relief, and at one time there were 4,500,000 people on the relief works . 1905 Famine in Russia . Famines in India.—Owing to its tropical situation and its almost entire dependence upon the monsoon rains, India is more liable than any other country in the world to crop failures, which upon occasion deepen into famine . Every year sufficient rain falls in India to secure an abundant harvest if it were evenly distributed over the whole country; but as a
See also:
matter of fact the distribution is so uneven and so uncertain that every year some district suffers from insufficient rainfall . In fact, famine is, to all intents and purposes, endemic in India, and is a problem to reckon with every year in some portion of that vast area .

The people depend so entirely upon

agriculture, and the harvest is so entirely destroyed by a single monsoon failure, that wherever a
See also:
total failure occurs the landless labourer is immediately thrown out of
See also:
work and remains out of work for the whole year . The question is thus one of lack of employment, rather than lack of food . The food is there, perhaps at a slightly enhanced price, but the unemployed labourer has no
See also:
money to buy it . The problem is very much the same as that met by the
See also:
British Poor Law system . Every year in England a poor
See also:
rate of some £22,000,000 is expended for a population of 40 millions; while it is only in an exceptional year in India that £10,000,000 are spent on a population of 300 millions . Famines seem to recur in India at periodical intervals, which have been held to be in some way dependent on the sun-spot period . Every five or ten years the
See also:
annual scarcity widens its area and becomes a recognized famine; every fifty or a
See also:
hundred years whole provinces are involved, loss of life becomes widespread, and a great famine is recorded . In the 140 years since Warren Hastings initiated British
See also:
rule in India, there have been nineteen famines and five severe scarcities . For the period preceding British rule the records have not been so well pre-served, but there is ample evidence to show that famine was just as frequent in its incidence and infinitely more deadly in its effects under the native rulers of India . In the great Bengal famine of 1769-1770, which occurred shortly after the foundation of British rule, but while the native officials were still in power, a third of the population, or ten millions out of
See also:
thirty millions, perished . From this it may be guessed what occurred in the centuries under Mogul rule, when for years there was no rain, when famine lasted for three, four or twelve years, and entire cities were
See also:
left without an inhabitant . In the famine of 1901, the worst of
See also:
recent years, the loss of life in British districts was 3% of the population affected, as against 33% in the Bengal famine of 1770 .

The native rulers of India seem to have made no effort to relieve the sufferings of their subjects in times of famine; and even down to 1866 the British government had no settled famine policy . In that year the Orissa famine awakened the public

conscience, and the commission presided over by
See also:
Sir George Campbell laid down the lines upon which subsequent famine-relief was organized . In the Rajputana famine of 1869 the humane principle of saving every possible life was first 1846-1847 enunciated . In the Behar famine of 1874 this principle was even carried to an extreme, the cost was enormous, and the people were in danger of being pauperized . The resulting reaction caused a regrettable loss of life in the M,adras and Bombay famine of 1876–1878; and the Famine Commission of 188o, followed by those of 1898 and 1901, laid down the principle that every possible life must be saved, but that the wages on relief works must be so regulated in relation to the market rate of wages as not to undermine the independence of the people . The experience gained in the great famines of 1898 and 1901 has been garnered by these commissions, and stored up in the " famine codes " of each
See also:
separate province, where rules are provided for the treatment of famine directly a crop failure is seen to be probable . The first step is to open test works; and directly they show the necessity,
See also:
regular relief works are established, in which the people may
See also:
earn enough to keep them from starvation, until-the time comes to sow the next crop . As a result of the severe famine of 1878–1879, Lord Lytton's government instituted a form of
See also:
insurance against famine known as the Famine Insurance Grant . A sum of Rs . 1,500,000 was to be yearly set aside for purposes of famine relief . This scheme has been widely misunderstood; it has been assumed that an entirely separate fund was created, and that in years when the specified sum was not paid into this fund, the purpose of the government was not carried out . But Sir John Strachey, the author of the scheme, explains in his
See also:
book on India that the
See also:
original intention was nothing more than the annual application of surplus revenue, of the indicated amount, to purposes of famine relief; and that when the country was
See also:
free from famine, this sum should be regularly devoted to the discharge of debt, or to the prevention of debt which would otherwise have been incurred for the construction of
See also:
railways and canals .

The sum of zi crores is regularly set aside for this purpose, and is devoted as a rule to the construction of protective irrigation works, and for investigating and preparing new projects falling under the

head of protective works . The
See also:
measures by which the government of India chiefly endeavours to reduce the liability of the country to famine are the promotion of railways; the extension of canal and well irrigation; the reclamation of waste lands, with the establishment of fuel and
See also:
fodder reserves; the introduction of agricultural improvements; the multiplication of
See also:
industries; emigration; and finally the improvement where necessary of the revenue and
See also:
rent systems . In times of famine the
See also:
function of the railways in distributing the grain is just as important as the function of the irrigation-canals in increasing the amount grown . There is always enough grain within the boundaries of India for the needs of the people; the only difficulty is to transport it to the tract where it is required at a particular moment . Owing to the ex-tension of railways, in the famines of 1898 and 1901 there was never any dearth of food in any famine-stricken tract; and the only difficulty was to find enough
See also:
rolling-stock to cope with the demand . Irrigation protects large tracts against famine, and has immensely increased the wheat output of the
See also:
Punjab; the Irrigation Commission of 1903 recommended the addition of 62 million acres to the irrigated area of India, and that recommendation is being carried out at an annual cost of r i millions sterling for twenty years, but at the end of that time the list of works that will return a lucrative
See also:
interest on capital will be practically exhausted . Local conditions do not make irrigation everywhere possible . As five-sixths of the whole population of India are dependent upon the land, any failure, of agriculture becomes a
See also:
national calamity . If there were more industries and manufactures in India, the dependence on the land would not be so great and the liability to lack of occupation would not be so
See also:
uniform in any particular district . The remedy for this is the extension of factories and home industries; but
See also:
European capital is difficult to obtain in India, and the native capitalist prefers to hoard his rupees . The extension of industries, therefore, is a work of time . It is sometimes alleged by native
See also:
Indian politicians that famines are growing worse under British rule, because India is becomingexhausted by an excessive land revenue, a
See also:
civil service too expensive for her needs, military
See also:
expenditure on imperial
See also:
objects, and the annual drain of some £15,000,000 for " home charges." The reply to this indictment is that the British land revenue is £z6,000,00p annually, whereas Aurangzeb's over a smaller area, allowing for the difference in the value of the rupee, was £11o,000,000; though the Indian Civil Service is expensive, its cost is more than covered by the fact that India, under British guarantee, obtains her loans at 31- % as against 10% or more paid by native rulers; though India has a heavy military burden, she pays no contribution to the British
See also:
navy, which protects her seaboard from invasion; the drain of the home charges cannot be very great, as India annually absorbs 6 millions sterling of the precious metals; in 5899–5900, a year of famine, the
See also:
net imports of gold and,
See also:
silver were 130 millions .

Finally, it is estimated by the

census commissioners that in the famine of 1901 three million people died in the native states and only one million in British territory . See Cornelius Walford, " On the Famines of the World, Past and
See also:
Present " (Journal of the Statistical Society, 1878–1879) ; Romesh C . Dutt, Famines in India (19oo) ; Robert Wallace, Famine in India (1900) ; George Campbell, Famines in India (1769–1788) ;
See also:
Chronological List of Famines for all India (Madras Administration Report, 1885) ; J . C . Geddes, Administrative Experience in Former Famines (874) ; Statistical
See also:
Atlas of India (1895)); F . H . S . Merewether, Through the Famine Districts of India (1898) ; G . W . Forrest, The Famine in India (1898) ; E . A . B .

Hodgetts, In the Track of the

See also:
Russian Famine (1892); W . B . Steveni, Through Famine-stricken Russia (1892); Vaughan Nash, The Great Famine (1900); Lady Hope, Sir Arthur Cotton (1900) ; Lord Curzon in India (19o5); T . W . Holderness, Narrative of the Famine of 1896–1857 (c . 8812 of 1898); the Indian Famine Commission reports of 188o, 1898 and 1900; report of the Indian Irrigation Commission (1901–1903); C . W . McMinn, Famine Truths, Half-Truths, Untruths (1902) Theodore Morison, Indian
See also:
Industrial Organization (1906) .

End of Article: FAMINE (Lat. fames, hunger)
[back]
FAMILY
[next]
FAN (Lat. vannus; Fr. eventail)

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.