Famine in Bengal: a comparison of the 1770 famine in Bengal and the 1897 famine in Chotanagpur

Damodaran, Vinita (2007) Famine in Bengal: a comparison of the 1770 famine in Bengal and the 1897 famine in Chotanagpur. Medieval History Journal, 10 (1-2). pp. 143-181. ISSN 0971-9458

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Abstract

Famine research has gained ground in both Asia and Africa in recent times and it is well known that British India experienced a series of subsistence crises particularly in the latter half of the nineteenth century. However, analyses of these famines by historians have rarely included a study of environmental changes. A knowledge of the ecological basis of different peasant economies is crucial to an understanding of the capacity of certain communities to withstand drought and other famine related hazards. It is argued in this article that modernisation and commercialisation were accompanied by pauperisation and vulnerability to famine in large parts of India but the process affected regions differently as the evidence from Bengal shows. It was only by the later nineteenth century that the drastic effects of taxation, modernisation and ecological transformation caught up with outlying areas of Bengal and Bihar resulting in a permanent destabilisation of tribal society in the region. That these processes had occurred in central Bengal over a century previously emphasises the fact that the transition from pre-modern to modern was affected in India, differentially, and a regional focus reveals the uneven nature of development, local resistance to the forces of modernisation and the survival of husbandry techniques and coping strategies in times of scarcity that withstood the threats of modernisation well into the nineteenth century.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of History, Art History and Philosophy > History
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DS History of Asia > DS393 Bangladesh. East Pakistan
D History General and Old World > DS History of Asia > DS401 India (Bharat)
Depositing User: Vinita Damodaran
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 18:21
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2013 10:26
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/15929
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