Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine

About the Book | Additional Resources | Past Events


The world almost conquered famine. Until the 1980s, this scourge killed ten million people every decade, but by early 2000s mass starvation had all but disappeared. Today, famines are resurgent, driven by war, blockade, hostility to humanitarian principles and a volatile global economy.

In Mass Starvation, world-renowned expert on humanitarian crisis and response, and WPF Executive Director, Alex de Waal, provides an authoritative history of modern famines: their causes, dimensions and why they ended. He analyses starvation as a crime, and breaks new ground in examining forced starvation as an instrument of genocide and war. Refuting the enduring but erroneous view that attributes famine to overpopulation and natural disaster, he shows how political decision or political failing is an essential element in every famine, while the spread of democracy and human rights, and the ending of wars, were major factors in the near-ending of this devastating phenomenon. 

Hard-hitting and deeply informed, Mass Starvation (Polity Books, 2017) explains why man-made famine and the political decisions that could end it for good must once again become a top priority for the international community. You can purchase the book in the UK starting in November 2017, and elsewhere beginning in January 2018

Alex de Waal explains some of the main themes of Mass Starvation