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Hunger is as old as history itself. Indeed, it appears to be a timeless and inescapable biological condition. And yet perceptions of hunger and of the hungry have changed over time and differed from place to place. Hunger has a history, which can now be told.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, hunger was viewed as an unavoidable natural phenomenon or as the fault of its lazy and morally flawed victims. By the middle of the twentieth century, a new understanding of hunger had taken root. Across the British Empire and beyond, humanitarian groups, political activists, social reformers, and nutritional scientists established that the hungry were innocent victims of political and economic forces outside their control. Hunger was now seen as a global social problem requiring government intervention in the form of welfare to aid the hungry at home and abroad. James Vernon captures this momentous shift as it occurred in imperial Britain over the past two centuries.
Rigorously researched, Hunger: A Modern History draws together social, cultural, and political history in a novel way, to show us how we came to have a moral, political, and social responsibility toward the hungry. Vernon forcefully reminds us how many perished from hunger in the empire and reveals how their history was intricately connected with the precarious achievements of the welfare state in Britain, as well as with the development of international institutions, such as the United Nations, committed to the conquest of world hunger. All those moved by the plight of the hungry will want to read this compelling book.
James Vernon is Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley.
Table of Contents
Preface vii Hunger and the Making of the Modern World 1 The Humanitarian Discovery of Plunger 17 Hunger as Political Critique 41 The Science and Calculation of Hunger 81 Hungry England and Planning for a World of Plenty 118 Collective Feeding and the Welfare of Society 159 You Are What You Eat: Educating the Citizen as Consumer 196 Remembering Hunger: The Script of British Social Democracy 236 Conclusion 272 Notes 281 Index 361
What People are Saying About This
This is history writing of the most jolting and publicly significant kind.
Gareth Stedman Jones
Hunger: A Modern History moves impressively between the British domestic and political, the colonial and the global, without straining the argument or losing touch with the sources. James Vernon's research ranges over vast tracts of material, demonstrating concretely and graphically how discussion about famine originating in nineteenth-century India became central to discussion about nutrition in twentieth-century Britain. Gareth Stedman Jones, Cambridge University
This is history writing of the most jolting and publicly significant kind. Bruce Robbins, Columbia University
A work of exciting originality that uses hunger to challenge our essential ideas about the history of the welfare state and of democracy and citizenship in twentieth-century Britain. This is a very major book. Geoff Eley, University of Michigan
A lively and engaging study that demonstrates how hunger is as much a historical condition as it is a biological one. Elegant, intelligent, and ambitious, it will be widely read and admired. Philippa Levine, University of Southern California