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Famine: A Short History (review)

Famine: A Short History (review) Book Reviews Famine: A Short History. By cormac ó gráda. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009. 344 pp. $27.95 (cloth). In what is, surprisingly, the only book of its kind on the market, Cormac Ó Gráda has written a concise, informative, and thoroughly readable study of famines in world history. He uses historical cases to fashion a model for famines--what they are, what causes them, why they are often so severe, and, most important, how we can prevent them from occurring. Thus his book is as prescriptive as it is descriptive. As he puts it, "Writing about famine today is, one hopes, part of the process of making it less likely in future" (p. 2). In so doing, Ó Gráda has taken on a Herculean task. Owing to the dearth of reliable contemporary statistics--to say nothing of survivor testimonies--past famines are notoriously difficult to measure. "The [death] tolls of the vast majority of historical famines," he cautions, "can only be guessed at" (p. 92). Even some twentieth-century famines remain enigmatic because they occurred in authoritarian states whose governments still prevent access to information. Famine is thus reminiscent of genocide insofar as the full story of the suffering is http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of World History University of Hawai'I Press

Famine: A Short History (review)

Journal of World History , Volume 21 (4) – Feb 3, 2010

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University of Hawai'I Press
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Copyright © University of Hawai'I Press
ISSN
1527-8050
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Abstract

Book Reviews Famine: A Short History. By cormac ó gráda. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009. 344 pp. $27.95 (cloth). In what is, surprisingly, the only book of its kind on the market, Cormac Ó Gráda has written a concise, informative, and thoroughly readable study of famines in world history. He uses historical cases to fashion a model for famines--what they are, what causes them, why they are often so severe, and, most important, how we can prevent them from occurring. Thus his book is as prescriptive as it is descriptive. As he puts it, "Writing about famine today is, one hopes, part of the process of making it less likely in future" (p. 2). In so doing, Ó Gráda has taken on a Herculean task. Owing to the dearth of reliable contemporary statistics--to say nothing of survivor testimonies--past famines are notoriously difficult to measure. "The [death] tolls of the vast majority of historical famines," he cautions, "can only be guessed at" (p. 92). Even some twentieth-century famines remain enigmatic because they occurred in authoritarian states whose governments still prevent access to information. Famine is thus reminiscent of genocide insofar as the full story of the suffering is

Journal

Journal of World HistoryUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Feb 3, 2010

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