The article makes use of a novel database on the occurrence of famines in Europe, from 1250 to the present. The database covers almost the entire continent, divided into nine macro-areas (Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Low Countries, Nordic Europe, Spain, and ex-USSR countries). No such encompassing and systematic study of European famines has been attempted before. The timing of European famines allows us to identify their main causes. We find that in preindustrial Europe, until ca. 1710, famines were mostly the outcome of population pressure on available resources, with crises triggered by crop-damaging meteorological events. The likelihood of such extreme meteorological events, in turn, may have been increased by phases of inversion of the climatic cycle (from warming to cooling and vice versa). After 1710, famines were increasingly connected to human agency and especially to war. This was clearly the case of the last European-wide famines, linked to World War 1 and World War 2. Our findings about the past resonate with current debates about famine, which pit those who claim that famines are “natural” events against those who claim they are “man-made”.

The timing and causes of famines in Europe

Alfani, Guido
;
Ó Gráda, Cormac
2018

Abstract

The article makes use of a novel database on the occurrence of famines in Europe, from 1250 to the present. The database covers almost the entire continent, divided into nine macro-areas (Britain, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Low Countries, Nordic Europe, Spain, and ex-USSR countries). No such encompassing and systematic study of European famines has been attempted before. The timing of European famines allows us to identify their main causes. We find that in preindustrial Europe, until ca. 1710, famines were mostly the outcome of population pressure on available resources, with crises triggered by crop-damaging meteorological events. The likelihood of such extreme meteorological events, in turn, may have been increased by phases of inversion of the climatic cycle (from warming to cooling and vice versa). After 1710, famines were increasingly connected to human agency and especially to war. This was clearly the case of the last European-wide famines, linked to World War 1 and World War 2. Our findings about the past resonate with current debates about famine, which pit those who claim that famines are “natural” events against those who claim they are “man-made”.
2018
2018
Alfani, Guido; Ó Gráda, Cormac
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11565/4033855
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