Famines in Czech lands
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This article discusses historical famines that have occurred in the area of today's Czech Republic. Various known famines occurred throughout Czech lands between 1272 and 1847. Excessive rain, cold temperatures, hail, warfare, and disease are the main causes of famines in Czech lands.
The first recorded famine in Czech lands occurred from 1272 until 1282 and was caused by warfare and weather, which decreased the volume of crops harvested in the region. This first instance of famine caught inhabitants off guard and caused 600,000 deaths, mostly through endemic plagues, although there were some occurrences of cannibalism. Local famines also transpired in Czech regions in 1318, caused by warfare; and then in 1361 and 1366, caused by crop shortage and failures.
"The Hungry Years" (1432-1434)
The years 1432 through 1434 were known as "the hungry years" in Czech lands as they faced climatic issues for the duration of the Hussite Wars. The Hussite Wars were fought in Bohemia between the followers of the executed Jan Hus, a renowned contributor to the Protestant movement. This set of wars was one of the first known military actions fought with hand-held firearms. The final two years of this fourteen-year set of wars sparked an increase in the price of grain. At one point grain was six times the price it had been prior to the wars. People in Czech lands were unable to afford grain until the price returned to an affordable rate.
Around 1560 a decrease in temperature resulted in another disappointing harvest. A famine following the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748 killed 1,200 people in Doksy, a city in northern Czech lands.
Great Famine (1770-1771)
The next recorded famine in Czech lands was the Great Famine, which lasted from 1770 until 1771. The cause of the Great Famine was a disease of grain monoculture and heavy rains. The Great Famine killed twelve percent of the Czech lands’ population, up to 500,000 inhabitants, and radicalized countrysides, which led to peasant uprisings. This famine ended when Czech lands imported and began producing potatoes. The last famine in Czech lands was in Czech Silesia in 1847. This famine was caused by a potato disease and led to the deaths of over 20,000 people.
- Today's climatology and its use in history research (in Czech) (Detailed overview, English summary, sources.)
- Norman Davies. Europe: A History. Pimlico 1997.