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On the Demography of South Asian Famines: Part I

Tim Dyson
Population Studies
Vol. 45, No. 1 (Mar., 1991), pp. 5-25
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2174991
Page Count: 21
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On the Demography of South Asian Famines: Part I
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Abstract

This paper, which is published in two parts, is focused on demographic responses to famine in South Asia. In Part I the famines of 1876-78, 1896-97 and 1899-1900 are examined. The data that relate to disasters evince clear regularities. In each of these famines the timing of food-price rises and reductions in conceptions was similar. During the initial stages of famine the death rate was not particularly high. The main period of mortality occurred one full year after the price and conception movements. It coincided with the resumption of the monsoon, and malaria probably played a major role. There was a clear pattern to proportional increases in mortality by age--in these terms older children and adults were hardest hit. In each famine, deaths of males increased most--perhaps partly reflecting the fact that by the time of the main peak in deaths a smaller-than-usual fraction of the female population were either pregnant or lactating. Explanations for some of these regularities are considered. In Part II of the paper (to be published in the next issue) the same basic concerns a propos the Bengal famine of 1943-44 and the Bangladesh famine of 1974-75 will be examined.

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