Mass StarvationThe History and Future of Famine
Mass Starvation
The History and Future of Famine

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 analyzes 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.

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  • November 2017
  • 240 pages
  • 152 x 229 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $69.95
  • 9781509524662
  • Paperback $24.95
  • 9781509524679
  • Open eBook $24.95
  • 9781509524709
Table of Contents

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

About the Author
Alex de Waal is Executive Director of the World Peace Foundation and a Research Professor at The Fletcher School.
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‘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

'This is the most important book on famine to appear for some time. Alex de Waal's ideas on famine crimes and atrocities are particularly relevant and we must take heed of his warnings that the decline in famine deaths in the last few decades could be reversed.' Peter Atkins, Durham University

'Drawing on Alex de Waal's unrivalled understanding and experience of famines and written with his usual flair, this book presents some good news (that human-made famines have been on the decline) along with a stark warning that they may now be on the rise again, especially in the Middle East.' David Keen, LSE

‘A scholarly and passionate book. De Waal is impressive in his ability to conceptualize such a broad topic.’

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