University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Core Seminar in Economic and Social History > The Great European Famine of 1315-7 revisited: nature, institutions and demography

The Great European Famine of 1315-7 revisited: nature, institutions and demography

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This paper, largely based on my forthcoming book ‘Communities of Famine’ looks at what could have been the single harshest subsistence crisis in European history: the Great European Famine of 1315-7. The discussion is linked to a larger scholarly controversy regarding the causes and nature of famine as historical phenomena. Some scholars consider famines as exogenous disasters, caused by natural forces; another school of thought sees famine as an anthropogenic catastrophe, brought about by purely institutional factors; finally, some historians blame the so-called ‘Malthusian trap’ in creating famines. The present paper uses the remarkably rich documentation related to the Great Famine in England, to test all three models of famine and determine which one fits the crisis the best. As expected, there is no uniform answer and it was a combination of all three factors (referred to as ‘meta-structures’), with their complex mechanisms and derivatives, that created the Great Famine.

This talk is part of the Core Seminar in Economic and Social History series.

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