To claim this famine on Mao’s watch was the worst in “modern world history” is a farce once we learn what “modern history” means.
In the West, “modern history” may describe the beginning of a new era, which was the European Renaissance (about 1420-1630).
The term “modern history” may also be marked by the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. If so, then “modern history” started between 1760 and 1830.
If we use 1760 as the beginning of “modern history”, then there are other famines that may claim the title of “worst famine in modern world history.” [Note: only famines with one million or more verified deaths will be listed here — there were many more than what’s on this page.]
In 1769 to 1773, there was the Bengal famine with 10 million deaths while India was part of the British Empire. To understand the British corruption that led to these deaths, I suggest reading Three Episodes in the Criminal History of the British Empire
In 1883-84, the Chalisa famine in India killed 11 million while India was still part of the British Empire.
Between 1810 and 1849, there were a series of four famines in China that took an estimated 45 million lives.
In 1845 – 1849, the Great Irish Famine killed more than one million people while Ireland was part of the British Empire.
Then in 1850 to 1873, because of the Taiping Rebellion in China, drought and famine caused the population of China to drop by over 60 million people. (Note: the Taipings were converted Christians influenced by Western religious beliefs and one goal of the rebellion was to convert China into a Christian nation.)
The Great Irish Famine manufactured by the economy of the British Empire
In 1866, the Orissa famine in India led to one million deaths from starvation, while still part of the British Empire.
Three years later in 1869, the Rajputana famine in India took another 1.5 million lives when India was part of the British Empire.
In Persia in 1870-71, famine took two million lives.
Between 1878 – 1880, there were famines in India, China, Brazil, Northern Africa and other countries. Thirteen million died in Northern China and more than five million in India, which was part of the British Empire.
In 1921, famine in Russia took 5 million, while in 1937 another famine in China took the lives of another five million and then the Soviet famine of 1947 added one million more to the death toll.
The last major famine during British rule in India was the Bengal famine of 1943. It has been estimated that some three to five million people died. [Note: at this point, more than 56 million died of famines in the British Empire—You may want to read How the British Empire Starved Millions… to learn more.]
Then, when we look at the number of major famines that have hit China since 108 BC, there were 1,828 or one nearly every year in one province or another and the famines varied in severity.
Moreover, in 1958-61, not all of China suffered from the so-called great famine, which has been blamed on Mao by many in the West. The provinces that suffered were Shandong, Henan, Shanxi, Anhui, Jaingsu and Sichuan — six of the twenty-three provinces in China.
To blame the famine and all loss of life due to starvation on Mao and the Maoists during the Great Leap Forward (1958 -61) and claim it was murder is a false accusation and an injustice. Mao was not a saint, but he was not guilty of this.
Continued on November 13, 2011 in Mao’s ‘alleged’ Guilt in the Land of Famines – Part 3 or return to Part 1
Recommended reading on this topic for those who seek the unblemished truth: From the Monthly Review, Did Mao Really Kill Millions in the Great Leap Forward? by Joseph Ball
From Griffith University, Australia, Poverty, by David C. Schak, Associate Professor
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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