Empire, Colonialism, and Famine in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
The essays in this volume examine the often-overlooked connection between empire building, imperial rule, and mass starvation. While droughts and other natural disasters can lead to serious food shortages, a decline in food availability need not result in wide-scale starvation. Mass starvation in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has almost always been linked to political decisions about food distribution—whether food is made available to those who most need it. Some of the worst cases occurred within empires or their colonies, with the greatest number of victims in the communist empires ruled by Mao, Lenin, and Stalin.
Topics addressed include famines in Soviet-ruled Ukraine, British-ruled Ireland and India, and the People’s Republic of China, as well as famine and food policies during World War II connected to Nazi German and Romanian empire-building in occupied Ukraine and Moldova. One essay compares the Irish and Ukrainian famines in the context of internal colonialism and alien rule. Another examines Raphael Lemkin’s views on genocide and famine. The introductory essay provides an overview of recent literature on famine theory and other studies addressing the connection between empires, empirebuilding, and famines. The collection points to the value of comparative study of wartime famines in occupied territories in the context of empire building, and of famines linked to imperial or colonial rule in overseas colonies or peripheral regions (internal colonies). This volume had its origins in conferences organized in 2016 in Toronto and 2017 in Kyiv by the Holodomor Research and Education Consortium (HREC). HREC is a project of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta, established through funding from the Temerty Foundation.
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