Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World
“Eloquent and passionate, this is a veritable Black Book of liberal capitalism.”—Tariq Ali
Examining a series of El Niño-induced droughts and the famines that they spawned around the globe in the last third of the 19th century, Mike Davis discloses the intimate, baleful relationship between imperial arrogance and natural incident that combined to produce some of the worst tragedies in human history.
Late Victorian Holocausts focuses on three zones of drought and subsequent famine: India, Northern China; and Northeastern Brazil. All were affected by the same global climatic factors that caused massive crop failures, and all experienced brutal famines that decimated local populations. But the effects of drought were magnified in each case because of singularly destructive policies promulgated by different ruling elites.
Davis argues that the seeds of underdevelopment in what later became known as the Third World were sown in this era of High Imperialism, as the price for capitalist modernization was paid in the currency of millions of peasants' lives.
Vital, a brilliant combination of history and ecology.
By email@example.com - March 4, 2001
Mike Davis' new book is a work of singular importance, offering a valuable new perspective on a disaster of horrifying magnitude. In the late 1870s and the late 1890s somewhere between 30 to 60 million people died in famine in India, China and Brazil. This does not count the many more who died from the Philippines to Angola, from Morocco to Indonesia. To the extent that people remember these famines it has been assumed that they were the result of an unfavorable climate. To the extent that larger social factors were involved, they were a classic Malthusian crisis, too many people on too little land, and they represented the failure of the Third World to adapt the industrial revolution. Davis shows very clearly that the third world was ravaged by the El Nino phenomenon. But that is the only the beginning. They were also ravaged by the new regimes of imperialism and the world market. Had the responsible authorities distributed what food existed, most of the victims would have... read more
A landmark study of the highest importance
By Henry Misbach - January 19, 2001
People who enjoy books that are easy to read, as well as entertaining, will not enjoy this one. But everyone who can read English needs to read this book.In a single stroke, it explodes all our myths about the origins and causes of the extreme poverty still found in what we know loosely as the Third World. Its thesis, as I get it, is that these areas were not always impoverished and, when impacted by famine, were capable of reasonable survival. Some of those myths we so long believed, rooted as they were in now discarded theories of race and nationality, have long since deserved their coup de grace, and here they receive it.Although I am not directly familiar with the book's sources for its political-historical claims, they seem to reflect the state of current research, as the author is able to use several secondary sources for many of his assertions. Those who might jump to any hasty conclusions about Davis' political biases should refer to Davis' excoriation of the... read more
Look at History from an Alarming Perspective
By Linda M. Stutz - January 3, 2007
This book recounts in detailed, well documented ways how famines occured in various regions of the world because of El Nino and La Nina weather patterns. This part of the author's message is not difficult to believe, though the science and climatology is complex. The alarming assertion, also extrodinarily well documented, is that British (and other European nations") colonial rule in these areas disrupted the ways in which these cultures traditionally handled famine conditions by focusing the local economies on profit making enterprises benefitting the British, and responded with incredible callousness to the utter misery that resulted. Those who generally think of the British as a civilized, Christian people will be shaken by their deliberate actions which caused millions of deaths. My criticism of the book is the absence of a summary chapter, and the lack of editing for readability. This book is difficult to read, and should be widely read.