FamineWeb - Comparative History of Famines The University of Melbourne

Modern Famines in Comparative Perspective

FamineWeb is an educational resource intended to support research and teaching relating to famines in world history. The website was established as part of a research project led by Stephen Wheatcroft (University of Melbourne), Cormac O Grada (University College, Dublin) and Stephen Morgan (University of Nottingham). Stephen Wheatcroft is assisted at Melbourne by Anthony Garnaut and Filip Slaveski. The project is currently funded by the Australian Research Council, 2008-11.

This collaborative project explores the political, social and economic history of modern famines in comparative perspective. The main focus of our research is on the two most severe famines in human history. These took place in the Soviet Union between 1931 and 1933, and in the People's Republic of China from 1958 to 1962. Both famines took place in countries that had a long history of food crises and famines. The two famines also took place at a similar stage of economic and demographic development.

While our central concern is with history and social statistics of periods of famine in the Soviet Union and China, we have an active interest in the comparative history of other famines and food crises. Of particular interest are famines and food crises that occurred during the First and Second World Wars, and also the world food crisis of 1946-47.

Project Workshops and Conferences

The project has already organised a series of international workshops and conferences for scholars conducting research on these major famines. The first of this series was a Conference on the History of Modern Famines at the University of Melbourne on March 18-19 and 20-21, 2009. The Workshop attended by Chinese, Russian and Ukrainian scholars addressed the question of famine in the USSR in 1931-33 and in China in 1958-61. The following conference addressed questions of agricultural development, demography of food supply in the twentieth century, with a focus on the food shortages and famines that occurred in many parts of the world during an immediately after the Second World War.

In August 2009 we organised a panel on Histories of Famine in Modern Times at the World Economic History congress in Utrecht, Holland, and we are currently producing a joint monograph on this subject. The next installment in our series is another Famine workshop on the Comparative history of modern famines, which is to be held at University of Melbourne from June 7-12 2010. Please contact us on famines-history@unimelb.edu.au for further information on the next conference and workshop session.