Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño famines and the making of the third world


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.

“Davis has given us a book of substantial contemporary relevance as well as great historical interest … this highly informative book foes well beyond its immediate focus.” — Amartya Sen, New York Times

“Davis’ work is the cruel and perpetual folly of the ruling elites.” — The New York Times

“Davis’s range is stunning…. He combines political economy, meteorology, and ecology with vivid narratives to create a book that is both a gripping read and a major conceptual achievement. Losts of us talk about writing ‘world history’ and ‘inter-disciplinary history’: here is the genuine article.” — Kenneth Pomeranz, author of The Great Divergence

“The global climate meets a globalizing political economy, the fundamentals of one clashing with the fundamentalisms of the other. Mike Davis tells the story with zest, anger, and insight.” — Stephen J. Pyne, author of World Fire

“Eloquent and passionate, this is a veritable Black Book of liberal capitalism.” — Tariq Ali

Mike Davis is author of Prisoners of the American Dream, City of Quartz, Dead Cities, and Ecology of Fear. He was recently awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. His Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent the US City and Planet of Slums are also available from Verso. His Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb is forthcoming from Verso.

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