Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine
January 2018, Polity
The world almost conquered famine. Until the 1980s, this scourge killed ten million people every decade, but by early 2000s mass starvation had all but disappeared. Today, famines are resurgent, driven by war, blockade, hostility to humanitarian principles and a volatile global economy.
In Mass Starvation, world-renowned expert on humanitarian crisis and response Alex de Waal provides an authoritative history of modern famines: their causes, dimensions and why they ended. He analyses starvation as a crime, and breaks new ground in examining forced starvation as an instrument of genocide and war. Refuting the enduring but erroneous view that attributes famine to overpopulation and natural disaster, he shows how political decision or political failing is an essential element in every famine, while the spread of democracy and human rights, and the ending of wars, were major factors in the near-ending of this devastating phenomenon.
Hard-hitting and deeply informed, Mass Starvation explains why man-made famine and the political decisions that could end it for good must once again become a top priority for the international community.
- Preface and Acknowledgements
- Part I: Perspectives on Famine and Starvation
- Chapter 1: An Unacknowledged Achievement
- Chapter 2: Famines as Atrocities
- Chapter 3: Malthus’s Zombie
- Chapter 4: A Short History of Modern Famines
- Part II: How Famines Were Almost Eliminated
- Chapter 5: Demography, Economics, Public Health
- Chapter 6: Politics, War, Genocide
- Chapter 7: The Humanitarian International
- Chapter 8: Ethiopia: No Longer the Land of Famine
- Part III: The Persistence and Return of Famines
- Chapter 9: The Famine that isn’t Coming
- Chapter 10: The New Atrocity Famines
- Chapter 11: Mass Starvation in the Future
Peter Atkins, Durham University
"Alex de Waal's new book makes a persuasive case that the large decline in famine death over the past three decades is in part attributable to the success of the international humanitarian aid system, even with its kinks and weaknesses. This book should be required reading for donor government policymakers, particularly those who propose slashing aid budgets."
Andrew S. Natsios, Executive Professor, George H.W. Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University
"For the first time in decades, mass starvation threatens multiple countries. Alex de Waal has written an important and timely book explaining how famine has made a comeback. Each famine is unique, but de Waal guides us through the complexities to highlight the element common to all today’s famines: the weaponization of starvation and the roll-back of humanitarian norms. Mass Starvation is a both a fine work of scholarship and an urgent call to action."
Jean-Marie Guéhenno, President & CEO, International Crisis Group and Former UN Under Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations