The Great Indian Famine of 1877-79

by Instant Noodle

India was the making of the British empire. Its diligent subjects earned Britain its fortune, and many say that India’s separation was perhaps the primary cause of Briatin’s fall from grace.

Prior to the Sepoy rebellion, India was the “property” of the East India “Company” (not many companies have their own flags and armies), but after that it formally came under control of the British state.

So, India was a tidy earner. That is, until there was a famine.

Britain duly appointed a famine commissioner, whose primary response was to reduce the grain wages to the workers substantially. His rationale was that it would make people work harder.

In 1879, the commissioner declared that the famine was under control. Others pointed out, however, that “”a famine can scarcely be said to be adequately controlled which leaves one-fourth of the people dead”. This decision was later reversed.

The famine ultimately killed somewhere in the region of 5 to 8 million people, and lingered long in the memories of Indian revolutionaries.

Here are our administrators in action, in a contemporary engraving in the Illustrated London News.

File:Madras famine 1877.jpg(June 14th 1879)