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  • Cited by 40
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2017
Print publication year:
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Book description

This is the first systematic study of famine in all parts of Europe from the Middle Ages until the present. In case studies ranging from Scandinavia and Italy to Ireland and Russia, leading scholars compare the characteristics, consequences and causes of famine. The famines they describe differ greatly in size, duration and context; in many cases the damage wrought by poor harvests was confounded by war. The roles of human action, malfunctioning markets and poor relief are a recurring theme. The chapters also take full account of demographic, institutional, economic, social and cultural aspects, providing a wealth of new information which is organized and analyzed within a comparative framework. Famine in European History represents a significant new contribution to demographic history, and will be of interest to all those who want to discover more about famines - truly horrific events which, for centuries, have been a recurring curse for the Europeans.


'A wide-ranging and deeply informed collection of essays on a painful but historically important and fascinating phenomenon: famine in the European past. Covering many centuries and the entire continent, the essays are deeply researched and rely on sensible economic and statistical analysis. Edited by two world-renowned experts, this is one of the best anthologies on any topic in economic history to appear in a long time.'

Joel Mokyr - Northwestern University, Illinois

'A seminal exercise in historical comparison which places Europe’s many own grim encounters with death-dealing famine in a wholly new perspective.'

Bruce M. S. Campbell - The Queen's University of Belfast

'In this remarkable book Alfani and Ó Gráda present a broad sweep of the history of famine in Europe, showing continental trends over a period of time from the late middle ages to second world war. In an age when famine threatens to re-emerge as a global scourge, this book is a poignant reminder that not so very long ago, famine stalked the economies that are today among the world’s wealthiest.'

Daniel Maxwell - Tufts University, Massachusetts

'The editors have brought together the first truly comparative, Europe-wide measurement and assessment of famines as killing events from the late Middle Ages to World War II. The essays and the editorial introduction are strikingly effective in demonstrating that although many famines effecting large geographical regions were sparked by failures of agrarian output, their final outcomes were never purely a result of natural processes.'

Richard Smith - University of Cambridge

'An important and comprehensive contribution … Anyone doing research on famine, regardless of era and location, should find these essays of interest and use. Essential.'

M. J. Frost Source: Choice

'This impressive volume presents a series of quantitatively rich historical studies by leading scholars that together offer a broad picture of famine in Europe - scale, context, and cause and effect - from medieval times onward.'

Geoffrey McNicoll Source: Population and Development Review

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