This article focuses on one of the most serious cases of famine in Iran in the nineteenth century. Reading through a wide range of contemporary documents, Kazemi uses this episode as a case study to talk about the larger problem of subsistence crises and natural disasters in Iran and the Middle East in the nineteenth century. He contends that the causes of the 1860–61 famine were a series of interlocking issues that had affected the political economy of the Qajar state. The longer-term economic and political developments in the run-up to the crisis had an important role in setting up a broad context in which subsistence crises of this kind could occur frequently. Loss of transcontinental trade and territories, the decline of local industries, worsening trade deficits, the devaluation and scarcity of currency, and chronic imperial and state-building warfare in an increasingly globalized economy had led to the worsening fiscal crisis of the Iranian state and the rise of what was essentially new and predatory capital in the Qajar grain market. In such an atmosphere, people had become vulnerable more than ever before to natural and manmade disasters. Many, if not all, of the processes explained here were central in the making of disasters elsewhere in the Middle East. The factors that brought about these unfortunate episodes in the region were interconnected and had local, regional, and above all global dimensions.
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Research Article| May 01 2017
The Black Winter of 1860–61: War, Famine, and the Political Ecology of Disasters in Qajar Iran
Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (2017) 37 (1): 24–48.
Ranin Kazemi; The Black Winter of 1860–61: War, Famine, and the Political Ecology of Disasters in Qajar Iran. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 1 May 2017; 37 (1): 24–48. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/1089201x-3821285
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