‘”We are Threatened with Famine, the most
Horrible of Evils”:
Drought, the markets and the law of unintended
consequences in nineteenth-century western India’
Dr. George Adamson,
The famines of late-nineteenth century India have been analysed in detail, the subject of many seminal texts. Yet nineteenth century famine studies in India suffer from a lack of temporal depth, focussing predominantly on the years immediately leading up to 1877. This ignores the fact well known within social-ecological systems theory: that vulnerabilities can develop over decades, and often crises can be traced back to policy decisions that were made many years earlier. This seminar presents the results of a study of social vulnerability to drought in western India during the late-eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It argues that market-driven drought response measures may have actually served to increase, rather than decrease, vulnerability to drought and suggests that the famine of 1877 was the result of a complex set of economic, institutional and environmental pressures. This has implications for the understanding of food security today, particularly within the context of climate change.
Dr. George Adamson is a Lecturer in Geography at King’s College, London. His research focuses on the many dimensions of climate variability and social vulnerability, with a focus on colonial-period India. He is currently co-authoring a volume entitled A Biography of El Nino.