Making Famine History

36 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2016

See all articles by Cormac O'Grada

Cormac O'Grada

University College Dublin (UCD)

Date Written: April 13, 2016


This paper reviews recent contributions to the economics and economic history of famine. It provides a context for the history of famine in the twentieth century, which is unique. During the century, war and totalitarianism produced more famine deaths than did overpopulation and economic backwardness; yet by its end, economic growth and medical technology had almost eliminated the threat of major famines. Today’s high-profile famines are “small” by historical standards. Topics analyzed include the role played by food markets in mitigating or exacerbating famine, the globalization of disaster relief, the enhanced role of human agency and entitlements, distinctive demography of certain twentieth-century famines, and future prospects for “making famine history.”

Keywords: famine, malnutrition, economic development

JEL Classification: N, O

Suggested Citation

O'Grada, Cormac, Making Famine History (April 13, 2016). Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Cormac O'Grada (Contact Author)

University College Dublin (UCD) ( email )

Dublin 4, 4

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics