We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Research & business

View Profile

Publication details for Professor Peter Atkins

Atkins, P.J. (2009). Famine. In International encyclopedia of human geography. Kitchin, R. & Thrift, N. Oxford: Elsevier. 1: 14-20.

Author(s) from Durham


Famine is a powerful word but it is difficult to define. The article considers its measurement as a means of exploring its variabilities, such as intensity and magnitude. Famine Early Warning Systems are increasingly being used to sound alerts and target aid, and they have been enhanced recently through attention to vulnerable groups and livelihoods. As a concept, famine has made a long journey from crude Malthusian arguments about ‘overpopulation’ to current debates that focus on hazards, entitlements, and the political economy of food systems. The human right to food has become a rallying point for antifamine activists, and there are now many voices calling for accountability among those responsible for famine crimes. The article identifies a number of new variant famines and concludes with a discussion of famine futures.


Braun J von, Teklu T, and Webb P (1998) Famine in Africa: Causes, Responses, and Prevention. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Campbell D (2003) Salgado and the Sahel: documentary photography and the imaging of famine. In: Debrix F and Weber C (eds) Rituals of Mediation: International Politics and Social Meaning. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Davis M (2001) Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino Famines and the Making of the Third World. London: Verso.
Devereux S (1993) Theories of Famine. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
Devereux S (2000) Famine in the Twentieth Century, IDS Working Paper 105. Brighton: Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex.
Devereux S (ed.) (2006) The New Famines: why Famines Exist in an Era of Globalization. London: Routledge.
Drèze J and Sen A (eds) (1990) The Political Economy of Hunger. Volume II: Famine Prevention. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Dyson T and Ó Gráda C (eds) (2002) Famine Demography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Edkins J (2000) Whose Hunger? Concepts of Famine, Practices of Aid. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Howe P and Devereux S (2004) Famine intensity and magnitude scales: a proposal for an instrumental definition of famine. Disasters 28: 353-372.
Keen D (1994) The Benefits of Famine: a Political Economy of Famine and Relief in Southwestern Sudan, 1983-1989. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Sen A (1981) Poverty and Famines: an Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Waal A de (1997) Famine Crimes: Politics and the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa. Oxford: James Currey.
Waal A de and Whiteside A (2003) New variant famine: AIDS and food crisis in southern Africa. Lancet 362: 1234-1237.
Waal A de (2005) Famine that Kills: Darfur, Sudan. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Watts MJ (1983) Silent Violence: Food, Famine and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Watts MJ and Bohle HG (1993) The space of vulnerability: the causal structure of hunger and famine. Progress in Human Geography 17: 43-67.