Timeline of major famines in India during British rule

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Major famines in India during British rule

This is a timeline of major famines on the Indian subcontinent during British rule from 1765 to 1947. The famines included here occurred both in the princely states (regions administered by Indian rulers), British India (regions administered either by the British East India Company from 1765 to 1857; or by the British Crown, in the British Raj, from 1858 to 1947) and Indian territories independent of British rule such as the Maratha Empire. Despite the droughts and famines, the Indian population increased drastically throughout the British period, from 249 million in 1871 to 382 million in 1941[1]. At least 15-35 million people may have died in famines caused by droughts and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation phenomenon during the British rule.

The year 1765 is chosen as the start year because that year the British East India Company, after its victory in the Battle of Buxar, was granted the Diwani (rights to land revenue) in the region of Bengal (although it would not directly administer Bengal until 1784 when it was granted the Nizamat, or control of law and order.) The year 1947 is the year in which the British Raj was dissolved and the new successor states of Dominion of India and Dominion of Pakistan were established.

Timeline[edit]

Chronological list of famines in India between 1765 and 1947[2]
Year Name of famine (if any) British territory Indian kingdoms/Princely states Mortality Map or illustration
1769–70 Great Bengal Famine Bihar, Northern and Central Bengal 10 million[3] (about one third of the then population of Bengal).[4]
The Bengal region shown in a later map (1880)
1783–84 Chalisa famine Delhi, Western Oudh, Eastern Punjab region, Rajputana, and Kashmir 11 million people may have died during the years 1782–84. Severe famine. Large areas were depopulated.[5]
Oudh, the Doab (land between the Ganges and Jumna rivers), Rohilkhand, the Delhi territories, eastern Punjab, Rajputana and Kashmir, were affected by the Chalisa famine.
1791–92 Doji bara famine or Skull famine Madras Presidency Hyderabad, Southern Maratha country, Deccan, Gujarat, and Marwar 11 million people may have died during the years 1788–94. One of the most severe famines known. People died in such numbers that they could not be cremated or buried.[6]
Map of India (1795) shows the Northern Circars, Hyderabad (Nizam), Southern Maratha Kingdom, Gujarat, and Marwar (Southern Rajputana), all affected by the Doji bara famine.
1837–38 Agra famine of 1837–38 Central Doab and trans-Jumna districts of the North-Western Provinces (later Agra Province), including Delhi and Hissar 0.8 million (or 800,000).[7]
Map of the North-Western Provinces showing the region severely afflicted by the famine (in blue)
1860–61 Upper Doab famine of 1860–61 Upper Doab of Agra; Delhi and Hissar divisions of the Punjab Eastern Rajputana 2 million.[7]
A map showing the Doab region
1865–67 Orissa famine of 1866 Orissa (also 1867) and Bihar; Bellary and Ganjam districts of Madras 1 million (814,469 in Orissa, 135,676 in Bihar and 10,898 in Ganjam)[8]
A 1907 map of Orissa, now Odisha, shown as the southwestern region of Greater Bengal. Coastal Balasore district was one of the worst-hit areas in the Odisha famine of 1866.
1868–70 Rajputana famine of 1869 Ajmer, Western Agra, Eastern Punjab Rajputana 1.5 million (mostly in the princely states of Rajputana)[9]
Map of Rajputana consisting of the princely states of the Rajputana Agency and the British territory of Ajmer-Merwara, in 1909; the map was little changed since the year of the famine, 1869.
1873–74 Bihar famine of 1873–74 Bihar 0.0 million. An extensive relief effort was organized by the Bengal government. There were little to none significant mortalities during the famine.[10]
A 1907 map of Bihar, British India, shown as the northern region of Greater Bengal. Monghyr district (top middle) was one of the worst-hit areas in the Bihar famine of 1873–74.
1876–78 Great Famine of 1876–78 (also Southern India famine of 1876–78) Madras and Bombay Mysore and Hyderabad 5.5 million in British territory.[7] Mortality unknown for princely states. Total famine mortality estimates vary from 6.1 to 10.3 million.[11]
Map of the British Indian Empire (1880), showing where the famine struck. Both years: Madras, Mysore, Hyderabad, and Bombay); during the second year: Central Provinces and the North-Western Provinces, and a small area in the Punjab
1896–97 Indian famine of 1896–97 Madras, Bombay Deccan, Bengal, United Provinces, Central Provinces. Also parts of Punjab specially Bagar tract.[12] Northern and eastern Rajputana, parts of Central India and Hyderabad 5 million in British territory.[7] [a]
Map from Chicago Sunday Tribune, January 31, 1897, showing the areas in India affected by the famine.
1899–1900 Indian famine of 1899–1900 Bombay, Central Provinces, Berar, Ajmer. Also parts of Punjab specially Bagar tract.[12] Hyderabad, Rajputana, Central India, Baroda, Kathiawar, Cutch, 1 million (in British territories).[7] Mortality unknown for princely states.[b]
Map of Indian famine of 1899–1900 from Prosperous British India by William Digby
1943–44 Bengal famine of 1943 Bengal 1.5 million from starvation; 2.1 million including deaths from epidemics.[15]
A map of the districts of Bengal, 1943, from Famine Enquiry Commission, Report on Bengal, 1945

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ According to a 1901 estimate published in The Lancet, this and other famines in India between 1891 to 1901 caused 19,000,000 deaths from "starvation or to the diseases arising therefrom",[13] an estimate criticised by the writer and retired Indian Civil Servant Charles McMinn.[14]
  2. ^ According to a 1901 estimate published in The Lancet, this and other famines in India between 1891 to 1901 caused 19,000,000 deaths from "starvation or to the diseases arising therefrom",[13] an estimate criticised by the writer and retired Indian Civil Servant Charles McMinn.[14]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Tapan Raychaudhuri, Dharma Kumar, Meghnad Desai, Irfan Habib. "The Cambridge Economic History of India: Volume 2, C.1751-c.1970". p. 490.
  2. ^ Imperial Gazetteer of India, volume III 1907, pp. 501–502
  3. ^ Cambridge 1983, p. 528
  4. ^ Cambridge 1983, p. 299
  5. ^ Grove 2007, p. 80
  6. ^ Grove 2007, p. 83
  7. ^ a b c d e Fieldhouse 1996, p. 132
  8. ^ Cambridge 1983, p. 529
  9. ^ a b Imperial Gazetteer of India vol. III 1907, p. 488
  10. ^ Hall-Matthews 2008, p. 4
  11. ^ Davis 2001, p. 7
  12. ^ a b C.A.H. Townsend, Final repor of thirds revised revenue settlement of Hisar district from 1905-1910, Gazetteer of Department of Revenue and Disaster Management, Haryana, point 22, page 11.
  13. ^ a b The effect of famines on the population of India, The Lancet, Vol. 157, No. 4059, June 15, 1901, pp. 1713-1714;
    Sven Beckert (2015). Empire of Cotton: A Global History. Random House. p. 337. ISBN 978-0-375-71396-5.;
    Davis, Mike (2001). Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. Verso. p. 7. ISBN 978-1859847398.
  14. ^ a b C.W. McMinn, Famine Truths, Half Truths, Untruths (Calcutta: 1902), p.87; According to the writer and retired Indian Civil Servant Charles McMinn, The Lancet's estimates were an overestimate based on a mistake in the population changes in India from 1891-1901. The Lancet, states McMinn, declared that the population increased only by 2.8 million for the whole of India, while the actual increase was 7.5 million according to him. The Lancet source, contrary to McMinn claims, states that the population increased from 287,317,048 to 294,266,702 (2.42%). Adjusting for changes in census tracts, the total population increase in India was only 1.49% between 1891 and 1901, a major decline from the decadal change of 11.2% observed between 1881 and 1891, according to The Lancet article in April 13, 1901. It attributes the decrease in population change rate to excess mortality from successive famines and the plague. See: The Census in India, The Lancet, Vol. 157, No. 4050, pp. 1107–1108
  15. ^ Cambridge 1983, p. 531.

References[edit]

Famines[edit]

Epidemics and Public Health[edit]

  • Banthia, Jayant; Dyson, Tim (December 1999), "Smallpox in Nineteenth-Century India", Population and Development Review, Population Council, 25 (4): 649–689, doi:10.1111/j.1728-4457.1999.00649.x, JSTOR 172481
  • Caldwell, John C. (December 1998), "Malthus and the Less Developed World: The Pivotal Role of India", Population and Development Review, Population Council, 24 (4): 675–696, doi:10.2307/2808021, JSTOR 2808021
  • Drayton, Richard (2001), "Science, Medicine, and the British Empire", in Winks, Robin, Oxford History of the British Empire: Historiography, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 264–276, ISBN 0-19-924680-7
  • Derbyshire, I. D. (1987), "Economic Change and the Railways in North India, 1860-1914", Population Studies, 21 (3): 521–545, doi:10.1017/s0026749x00009197
  • Klein, Ira (1988), "Plague, Policy and Popular Unrest in British India", Modern Asian Studies, Cambridge University Press, 22 (4): 723–755, doi:10.1017/s0026749x00015729, JSTOR 312523
  • Watts, Sheldon (1999), "British Development Policies and Malaria in India 1897-c. 1929", Past and Present (165): 141–181, doi:10.2307/651287
  • Wylie, Diana (2001), "Disease, Diet, and Gender: Late Twentieth Century Perspectives on Empire", in Winks, Robin, Oxford History of the British Empire: Historiography, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 277–289, ISBN 0-19-924680-7