1900-1919 | Famine | Racism | South Africa

Africans starved to save the white garrison of Mafeking

[ 17 May 1900 ] On 17 May 1900, a British army relieved the besieged city of Mafeking during the Second Boer War. It led to street celebrations across Britain and the commander of the besieged garrison, Colonel Robert Baden-Powell, became a national hero.  B-P had ruthlessly maintained food stocks for British troops and European…

1800-1859 | Famine


28 September 1846 On 28 September 1846, during the height of the Irish potato famine, forty mounted soldiers of the First Royal Dragoons were called out to deal with a large crowd of up to twelve thousand starving peasants and labourers. They had converged on the coastal port of Dungarvan, until the town was ‘literally…

1500-1799 | Famine | India


1 September 1771 On 1 September 1771, the Scots Magazine published an account from a ‘gentleman’ in Bengal describing an unprecedented famine. It has been provoked by a combination of a prolonged drought and the rapacity of Britain’s East India Company which, despite the wretched condition of the population, continued to ruthlessly extract high levels of taxation….

1800-1859 | Famine

A bleak famine Christmas under British rule in Ireland

25 December 1847 Historians refer to the year as ‘Black 47,’ the most terrible of the ‘Great Hunger’ in Ireland with hundreds of thousands succumbing to famine and disease. At the same time, tens of thousands of tenants, who could no longer pay their rents, faced mass evictions from landlords, who often relied on the…

1800-1859 | Collective punishments | Famine

Relief works for famine struck Irish villagers suspended

7 December 1846 In December 1846 Ireland was in the grip of a devastating potato famine as well as one of the worst winters in many years. Wherever a few people could find employment at a local public works, it provided the sole possible source of income and survival for the local community. One can…

1800-1859 | Famine

Irish famine fears exaggerated – delay in acting desirable

13 October 1845 On 13 October 1845, a report from Lord Heytesbury, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, lay on Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel’s desk. It predicted the failure of Ireland’s potato crop, on which almost its entire population depended for survival. Peel considered his response carefully. He insisted he needed to see conclusive proof…

2000-2009 | Afghanistan | Famine

Britain joins an illegal war of aggression against Afghanistan

7 October 2001 On 7 October 2001, Britain joined the United States in initiating air strikes against Afghanistan.  Labour politician Tony Benn noted in his diary: ‘So we’ve launched into a war without any declaration of war, without any parliamentary authority for war, outside the United Nations, a war that is supposed to be directed…

1800-1859 | Famine | Media propaganda

The Times warns famine struck Ireland to expect less relief

30 August 1848 Lord Clarendon, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, writing about the political debate over how Britain should respond to the Irish famine of the 1840s, observed that ‘an extraordinary and universal importance attaches to the views of The Times.’1  The political elite would therefore have taken due note when, on 30 August 1848,  the…

1800-1859 | Famine | Ireland | Media propaganda

The Times – lazy and perfidious Irish famine victims abuse our charity

26 July 1848 On 26 July 1848, at the height of the potato famine in Ireland, from which over a million died, The Times published an editorial which was far from sympathetic. The Irish were not only deemed undeserving of the totally inadequate relief measures organized by a reluctant British government, but they were also portrayed as…

1800-1859 | Famine

British treasury halts relief to famine struck Irish peasants

17 July 1846 Today in 1846, Charles Trevelyan, Assistant Secretary of the British Treasury, on learning of the ‘very unfavourable’ reports on the potato harvest’,  wrote to Sir Randolph Ralph, head of Ireland’s Relief Commission. He warned him that ‘the only way to prevent the people from becoming habitually dependent on government is to bring…