3reviews - Page 1 1 of 3 DOCUMENTS The Times (London)...

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The Times (London) November 24, 2007, Saturday The politics of famine BYLINE: Joanna Bourke SECTION: FEATURES; Books; Pg. 11 LENGTH: 1002 words HUNGER: A Modern History by James Vernon HUNGER HURTS. TO THE 24,000 children and adults throughout the world who starve to death or die of diseases associated with hunger every day, this might be regarded as a banal statement. In his history of hunger, however, James Vernon is anything but trite. He wants us to meditate on the cultural and historical specificities of the "hurt" of hunger in the United Kingdom and the Empire between the 19th century and the 1940s. Starvation is fundamental to our past. During the Great Irish Hunger of 1843 46, close to a million people died. Furious as well as frightened, Irish commentators attempted to allocate blame. Was the blight an indictment of British rule? As the Ulster-born Protestant nationalist John Mitchel declaimed, the Irish were "carefully, prudently, and peacefully slain by the English government". More commonly, dire poverty was blamed on the poor themselves. Starving paupers were accused of being lazy or profligate. Famine was a punishment from God, a wrathful providence bent on striking down the ungodly. Hunger was not simply an Irish problem. Throughout the UK, citizens suffered starvation. In 1845 and 1846 The Times launched a campaign to expose the extent of the crisis even in flourishing English towns. Its initial target was Andover, in Hampshire. Journalists vied for the most lurid stories. According to one, paupers in Andover were so hungry that they fought over the bones they were employed to crush. Some of these bones, journalists alleged, came from cemeteries. The Times implored readers to try to imagine how English paupers could be so hungry that they could sink into "such a state of brutal degradation" that they were forced to "satisfy the cravings of hunger from such a disgusting source". Instead of castigating the poor for their moral laxity, the newspaper blamed incompetent local officials and expressed loathing for the Government's inadequate Poor Law policies. Rather than being shunned as objects of opprobrium, the poor were embraced as innocent victims. Almost single-handedly, The Times succeeded in converting the hungry into objects of humanitarian concern. The so-called " hunger marches" carried out by unemployed men throughout the country in the 1930s were another occasion when the consciences of middle class Britons were pricked. These marchers sought not only to redeem the moral worth of destitute men, but also to publicise that governmental policies were responsible for the economic crisis. No jobs existed; the unemployed were victims of forces beyond their control. Even worse, unemployment insurance was inadequate and applicants were demeaned. Page 1
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course HISTORY 323 taught by Professor Grant during the Spring '08 term at Hamilton College.

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3reviews - Page 1 1 of 3 DOCUMENTS The Times (London)...

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