Sunday, January 12, 2020

Global History †Famines in India and China Essay

The 1876-1879 and 1896-1902 famines in India and China were some of the worst famines the world had ever seen up until that point in time (Rouse Lecture). In China and India from 1876-1882, the estimated mortality was between 31 and 61 million (Davis 2001: 7). If the British and the Chinese governments had made simple changes in their policies regarding India and China, the results of the famine would not have been so catastrophic. In this paper I will analyze, Davis’ argument that â€Å"Millions died, not outside the ‘modern world system,’ but in the very process of being forcibly incorporated into its economic and political structures. They died in the golden age of Liberal Capitalism†¦Ã¢â‚¬  (Davis 2001: 9). Almost contrary to that he argues that â€Å"many were murdered†, emphasizing that â€Å"‘millions die’ was ultimately a political choice† and that â€Å"imperial policies towards starving ‘subjects’ were often the exact moral equivalents of bombs dropped from 18,000 feet. † (Davis 2001: 22). I will aim to analyze these relating to British dealings with India, Western dealings with China, the broader development of imperialism and industrial capitalism from the late eighteenth century to the early years of the twentieth century, and also Marks’ claim that there is never such a thing as a purely â€Å"natural† disaster? In 1876, a disastrous famine hit India, starting with an El Nino-induced drought that halted crop production. However, the situation rapidly got worse: due to the inadequacy, there was a major surge in food prices. The vast amounts of Indian grain exports to Great Britain prompted grain speculation, which further raised the price of grain. As prices crept up, the poor could not afford to buy grain, a dietary staple. Furthermore, in 1865, wheat exports to Britain numbered 308,000 quarters. Climate also played an important role in the 1876 famine: El Nino pacific currents brought heavy rains and flooding to some parts of India, but severe drought to others (Rouse Lecture). In fall 1877, the arrival of heavy rains, instead of alleviating the drought, brought malaria-carrying mosquitoes that killed thousands (Davis 2001: 49). There were many responses to the growing famine. The British followed Malthusianism: land does not have a natural carrying capacity. Furthermore, in the few instances when the British distributed aid, they refused it to those unable to work (Davis 2001: 36). In 1896, another famine began due to a failed monsoon and the lack of a substantial 1896 crop (Davis 2001: 142). Grain prices rose again; there was no stored grain to rely on: the excess shipped to England to make up for shipping deficits. People hated the poorhouses: the food they provided was dry flour, salt, and dirt; moreover, as soon as rains fell, the British pushed the poor out of the relief camps (Davis 2001: 147, 158). The British downplayed the famine; overseas, they created stories and paintings that depicted the British as saviors (Davis 2001: 155-56). Finally, by the late 1890s, the British focused their attention on South Africa and India was left to deal with her own problems (Davis 2001: 165). While the famine was happening there were certain British policies that intensified famine in India. The newly constructed railroads, portrayed as agents that could bring relief to the famine were used by the British to build up the inventories for export goods. (Davis 2001: 26). In legislation methods, by the Vernacular press Act, there was see a denial and hiding of deaths saying they’re other diseases, than the famine and also the approval of Anti Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prevented the upper class Indians from helping. (Davis 2001: 34 & 39). Also relief efforts turned away people who could not perform hard labor(Davis 2001: 25 – 36). Seeing that millions had died the British did try to â€Å"prevent† famine again by setting up famine relief and insurance fund had been established in 1878 (Davis 2001: 141). They integrated Burma’s rice surpluses into imperial system. Laid more railroad (financed by Famine Relief Fund) (Davis 2001: 142). But there were many things they chose to overlook, particularly that they didn’t do anything about poor relief or the inflation in the prices of standard goods. They also didn’t spend any money on slum sanitation, which resulted in the Bubonic Plague (Davis 2001: 148). The 1876 famine in China was preceded by the worst Chinese drought in 200 years (Rouse Lecture). In previous famines, the Chinese state would provide generous aid; however, civil war threatened the Qing dynasty. As a result, they put all extra money into the military, as opposed to social welfare. Moreover, the First Opium War severally disabled the power of the Chinese state (Rouse Lecture). The British were known to grow opium in India and then shipping it to China in exchange for other goods the English were in need of. The Chinese administration had been trying to end this now flourishing trade for decades but were unsuccessful I their attempts. This system of trade caused considerable economic damage by the drainage of cash silver from the country to pay for the illegal imports apart from increasing corruption and voluntary unemployment. (Davis 2001: 12) Finally fed up and frustrated with the way the economy was plunging, the emperor too some drastic measures leading to the execution of important individuals involved in the trade (Rouse Lecture). Also the attacking the evil foreign ships in the harbor by the new Commissioner in the area sparked off a bitter battle between the two which ended in the defeat of the Chinese. The 1842 Treaty of Nanjing forced China to pay indemnities to Great Britain and to open up ports for British use: consequently, the Chinese could not give money to relief. (Davis 2001: 12) Furthermore, the Chinese moral economy had turned into a more capitalistic one by the time of the famine. The British, through the illegal trade of opium, instilled an individualistic profit-maximizing outlook on the economy. As a result, the poor received very little aid. Additionally, landowners began to use land to produce commercially crops, leaving even less land for peasants to work on: (empire financially and left bitterness over the relationship between the government and Rouse Lecture). Then came the Second Opium War in the years 1856-1860. This had nothing to do with opium but rather the fundamental problem of imperialism, competition. Other countries are starting to make trade-treaties with China (in other words, Britain isn’t the only imperial power), which leads to Britain wanting to renegotiate Treaty of Nanking and again making it more favorable to them. (Davis 2001: 12) They want to ensure their most favored nation status. They demand to open all Chinese ports, legalize opium trade, exempt imports from duties and again war breaks out and results in Treaty of Tientsin (1858) which again leads to the loss of China and meeting the demands of the British. The Taiping Rebellion, in which millions died, was a massive revolt against the monarchy of the reigning Qing Empire in China. Basically people are devastated and frustrated about China’s defeat in First Opium War and the reaction of the Qing leaders as ineffective and corrupt. Also the1850s flooding causes peasants to lose homes, and they join rebels. The movement was headed by Hong Xiuquan, an unorthodox Christian convert who declared himself the new Messiah (Davis 2001: 12 – 13). The government starts to take note and tries to stop them but Hong and their followers established the Kingdom of Taiping – â€Å"Kingdom of Heavenly Peace† on the basis of a classless society with wealth distribution. But holding their territory against imperial and foreign forces had become virtually impossible which led to their downfall. Almost inspired by this came the Boxer Uprising where a few radicals gathered around Beijing and tried to besiege the embassies of imperialists, as they were tired of the foreign dominance (Davis 2001: 13). The Chinese empire was extremely successful at preventing famine causalities in the past. Landowners and merchants refused aid from missionaries, convinced they would convert the Chinese in payment (Rouse Lecture). The Chinese government should also have cut the taxes: by attempting to gain money, the government stopped the poor from buying food. Finally, if China had limited their military budget they would have been able to keep up famine prevention measures. Both famines in India could have been easily averted by the British had they made certain changes. Lytton did not allow local governments to stockpile grain (Davis 2001: 29). Furthermore, the northwest provinces, historically a subsistence-based system, turned into a commercial system under the British: in order to restore British grain prices, grain was exported to Britain (Davis 2001: 51). If more grain had remained within the country, prices would not have risen so high in the first place. Yet at the same time, many of India’s maharajas gathered grain to sell at high prices, just like the British (Davis 2001: 50-51). Furthermore, the British insisted on collecting taxes from the impoverished rural farmers, who could barely make ends meet (Davis 2001: 50). There were certain social ideas, models and dilemmas that the British were the forerunners for. One of them was the idea of Liberal capitalism; which basically means that the society is based on the principles of capital in its various forms and that almost everything in the society had a price and could be obtained through capital. This idea of gaining capital led to the idea of obtaining it quickly, which came to the idea of imperialism, which was to use up the natural resources of foreigners towards ones own needs. Apart from that great thinkers like Adam Smith said, â€Å"famine has never arisen from any other cause but the violence of government attempting, by improper means, to remedy the inconvenience of dearth. † (Davis 2001: 31) which gave base to the idealistic imperialist plans, which were never really implemented. Around the time the idea of Social Darwinism came about which gave imperialists reasons to conquer new territories without worrying about the ethical issues as now they thought that it was just meant to be, as described in Rudyard Kipling’s â€Å"White Man’s Burden† (1899); which came up again at the time. If the British and Chinese governments had implemented these slightly different changes in India and China, the famines’ effects would not have been nearly as catastrophic. China’s numerous rebellions such as the Taiping and Boxer Rebellions wouldn’t have happened: there would be an extremely limited foreign presence in China and its people would not have been unable to provide for themselves. Without foreign influence, famine prevention measures would have been greater than those of the West would have been.

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