Research, Technology

The most famous cases of global famine

Mass famine is a severe lack of food,which always leads to an increase in mortality, various diseases and even insanity of people. Trouble can occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from sudden population growth to low crops due to natural phenomena and the invasion of pests (here are the most dangerous of them). In 2020, after a long decline in the number of hungry people, another jump was noticed - it turned out that hunger affected about 9.9% of the world's population. There is evidence that in the 20th century, about 70 million people died of starvation. Some situations literally drove people crazy and they started to eat each other. In the framework of this article, I propose to learn about several cases of famine, which at one time shocked the whole world.

Mass starvation has often occurred in history, here are the most famous cases


  • 1 Famine in Jamestown
  • 2 Great Famine in Europe
  • 3 Famine in besieged Leningrad
  • 4 Great famine in Ireland
  • 5 Famine in Camp Kanava

Famine in Jamestown

Jamestown is the very first settlement of the Britishon the American continent. It was founded in May 1607 and served for some time as the capital of the London colony. The settlement was located on the territory in which about 14 thousand indigenous Indians lived, so the British had to bargain with them - they were not able to get food on their own. Also, the colonists received food from London, constantly waiting for a ship with food.

Indian attack on Jamestown

Unfortunately, at some point betweenconflict arose between the Indians and the inhabitants of Jamestown, and trade was stopped. In 1609, another trouble occurred - a ship with food heading from England crashed on the reefs of Bermuda. The captain of the ship, Samuel Argall, was able to return to England and tell about the fact that the inhabitants of Jamestown were left without food. Unfortunately, the authorities were unable to send other ships.

Naval Officer Samuel Argall

In the winter of 1609, the people of Jamestown found themselves withoutfood. There is information that out of 500 colonists, only 60 people survived by the time of warming. They were only able to save themselves by resorting to cannibalism. Archaeological excavations have revealed terrible details about those times - people were cut off muscles and inflicted other injuries. And all this just for the sake of eating.

Today Jamestown is an open-air museum.

Great Famine in Europe

In the Middle Ages, mass famines arose veryoften. In most cases, the cause was a poor harvest due to unpredictable weather conditions. Between 1315 and 1317, the largest disaster of its kind occurred. Due to the lack of food, the prices of food have increased greatly and people could not afford them. So they had to eat wild plants, nuts, and even tree bark. At the beginning of the mass famine, thousands of people died every day, and by the end of the disaster, millions died of starvation. During these harsh times, some parents abandoned their children to their fate - probably this fact formed the basis of fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel.

Famine in Europe in 1315-1317

Famine in besieged Leningrad

In September 1941 German and Finnish troopsthey took Leningrad under blockade, which also became the cause of mass starvation. After the troops entered, all the shops were closed - the Germans blocked all food supply routes. To get food, some people gathered in groups. When there was nothing edible left, they began to use flowers, welded wood glue tiles, cosmetics, and so on as food. Some people even went mad and began to hunt others. Cannibals were recognized by the blush on their faces and were brutally dealt with. They did the same with the marauders. During the siege of Leningrad, 16,747 civilians were killed and 632,253 people starved to death.

Famine in besieged Leningrad

Great Famine in Ireland

Between 1845 and 1849 Ireland did notthere were potatoes because he had contracted the protozoan Phytophthora infestans. 1847 is considered the worst year during the potato famine, because at that time about a million people died from starvation. The people had no other food, because potatoes grew very well in the Irish lands and almost all the fields were occupied by them. I mentioned this case of mass starvation in an article about whether a person can survive on the same food.

Great Famine in Ireland


Famine in Camp Kanava

Another case of mass starvation occurred inKanawa Labor Camp, which is located in the desert region of China's Gansu Province. Between 1957 and 1961, about 3,000 criminals were kept there. Due to the fact that the camp was originally intended for 40-50 people, famine quickly began there. To survive, people had to eat plants, tree bark, and even rats and worms. It is believed that of all the prisoners, only 500 eventually survived. The events that took place in the camp are reflected in the 2010 film of the same name.

Shot from the film "Ditch"


It goes without saying that this is not allcases of mass starvation - history is full of such terrible events. Even today there are peoples in the world who suffer from lack of food. Fortunately, there are scientists who sometimes find ways to save people from starvation.