Famine may be triggered by nature but its outcome arises from politics and ideology. In Three Famines, award-winning author Thomas Keneally uncovers the troubling truththat sustained widespread hunger is historically the outcome of government neglect and individual venality. Through the lens of three of the most disastrous famines in modern historythe potato famine in Ireland, the famine in Bengal in 1943, and the string of famines that plagued Ethiopia in the 1970s and 1980s Keneally shows how ideology, mindsets of governments, racial preconceptions, and administrative incompetence were, ultimately, more lethal than the initiating blights or crop failures.
In this compelling narrative, Keneally recounts the histories of these events while vividly evoking the terrible cost of famine at the level of the individual who starves and the nation that withers.
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Table of Contents
Maps of the regions ix
Introduction: the Three Famines 1
1 Democracy and Starvation 7
2 Short Commons 17
3 Nature s Triggers 23
4 God's Hand 31
5 Coping 35
6 Villains: Ireland 61
7 Villains and Heroes: Bengal 75
8 Villains: Ethiopia 101
9 Whistleblowers 127
10 Famine Diseases 143
11 Evictions, Movements and Emigration in Bengal and Ireland 157
12 Evictions and Movements, Mengistu-style 183
13 Resistance 203
14 Relief: Ireland 223
15 Relief: Bengal 247
16 Relief: Ethiopia 263
17 Other Catastrophes 285
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An excellent book describing the three tragic famine events and how they came to be. This book details the causation and environment that lead to these disasters and the political turmoil that accompanied them. Through drought, war, policies, and political millions of deaths are explained in a way that affords you the opportunity to see how it happened and how it could happen again.
Anglophiles will not like this book. It highlights a direct connection between the British Empire and these three famines. It is true that the British were not directly involved in the horrors of the Mengistu era famines in Kenya, but it was the British who introduced maize as a staple crop there, blunting the ability of the Kenyan's traditional agriculture to mitigate the worst effects. The famines in Ireland and Bengal occurred under colonial governments established by the British. It was a combination of a Protestant/free market philosophy that equated charity with laziness and their perception of colonial peoples as uncivilized and lazy ( "Trevelyan believed the Irish too indolent to farm like civilized people..." p.67)that allowed British officials to discount the realities the subject peoples faced. In Bengal there was a military threat from the Japanese, but government inaction went far beyond the end of the military crisis. It is a good book to begin an exploration of the political aspects of famine with. From here you could more easily grasp something like "The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849" by Cecil Woodham-Smith.