CRF Blog

Three Famines

by Bill Hayes

In Three Famines: Starvation and Politics,Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler’s List, examines three horrific famines.

From the New York Times Book Review:

As recently as the mid-1980s, it was thought that famine was usually an “act of God” — a “biblical” failure of rains or crops or seasons. But in the 1990s, Amartya Sen, the Nobel-winning economist, showed this was wrong by proving one bold fact: “No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy.” Famine, it turns out, is not caused by a failure to produce food. It is caused by a failure to distribute food correctly — because the ruler is not accountable to the starving.

To demonstrate this thesis, Keneally … closely studies three of the greatest hungers in history: the Irish potato famine that began in 1845, the Bengal famine that raged in 1943 and 1944, and the Ethiopian famines of the 1970s and ’80s. They are scattered across continents yet they are uncannily similar…. [more]

Below Keneally talks about his book.

We recently did a Bill of Rights in Action article on one of these famines: The Potato Famine and Irish Immigration to America.