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The 1899-1900 Famine in India


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Victims of the Famine in Colonial India
Victims of the 1899-1900 famine in colonial India

Famine victims in colonial India, starving during the 1899-1900 famine.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

In 1899, the monsoon rains failed in central India. Drought parched crops over an area of at least 1,230,000 square kilometers (474,906 square miles), impacting almost 60 million people. Food crops and livestock died as the drought stretched into a second year, and soon people began to starve. The Indian Famine of 1899-1900 killed millions of people - perhaps as many as 9 million in all.

Many of the famine victims lived in British-administered sections of colonial India. The British Viceroy of India, Lord George Curzon, Baron of Kedleston, was concerned with his budget and feared that aid to the starving would cause them to become dependent on hand-outs, so British aid was seriously inadequate, at best. Despite the fact that Great Britain had been profiting greatly from its holdings in India for more than a century, the British stood aside and allowed millions of people in the British Raj to starve to death. This event was one of several that inspired calls for Indian independence, calls that would increase in volume over the first half of the twentieth century.

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