Were the famines that hit India in the 19th and 20th centuries the products of British Imperial rule? (by William Miles)

PublisHistory Blog

Were the famines that hit India in the 19th and 20th Centuries the products of British Imperial rule? (by William Miles)

Famines result from changes in weather patterns coupled with poor insurance against crop failures. These two factors are intertwined and neither can be said alone to cause famine. Both factors existed during the nineteenth and twentieth century famines that hit India. There were freak weather conditions, such as the 1942 Bengali cyclone which destroyed the livelihoods of 2.5 million peasants and caused their crops to fail, but these alone cannot be blamed for the famines because, for a famine to occur, one needs the second factor of poor contingency plans to come into play and this is where blame can be laid at the door of the British government in India. Had their policies been sound, they would have been able to deal with a sudden shortfall in crops in a particular area. However, Britain adopted policies which sacrificed the periphery for the core. Even when policies were aimed at…

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