Famine Disease and Famine Mortality: Lessons from the Irish Experience, 1845-1850
It is commonplace to observe that one of the great changes of the modern age is not only that life expectancy is much longer than a century or two ago, but that there has been a radical change in the causes of death. Even in the nineteenth century, infectious disease was by far the biggest cause of death. In our own age, though these diseases have not quite disappeared and some even threaten to make a comeback, they have clearly been relegated to a secondary role in all but the poorest countries. This paper argues that this observation is central to an understanding of the nature of past famines, and of why they may differ significantly from modern famines.
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