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Module Reading List

Economics of Famines, 2021/22, Semester 1, 2
Dr Quentin Outram
Tutor information is taken from the Module Catalogue

The Topic Notes

These are like lecture handouts and will be put on Minerva gradually over the year. 

Each Topic Note includes the following headings:

Aim and Objectives: These tell you what you should know and understand after you have worked through the Topic Note.

Status: Topic Notes cover material which is described as ‘Core’, ‘Optional’ or ‘Background’.

Core: you are expected to know and understand all core material; it is not possible to do a good piece of Assessed Course Work (ACW) without knowing this material.

Optional: these are ‘free-standing’ topics, the understanding of which is not required for later elements in the module. These topics may or may not be relevant to your ACW. 

Background: these Topic Notes provide information which you may find helpful for writing your ACW but which you are unlikely to have to discuss in your ACW.

Further Reading: This is to give you some pointers if you need a deeper knowledge of the topic concerned. The further reading is optional, not compulsory.

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General texts which you will find useful for all aspects of the module are:

 Jean Drèze & Amartya Sen, Hunger and Public Action, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1989.

 Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1981.

Both the above texts are now available online via Oxford Scholarship Online. You can print the online versions yourself. To access the online versions just search the Library catalogue in the ordinary way and choose the version labelled ‘[electronic resource]’. Remember, remember, and remember: if you cut and paste directly from these books into your notes, assessed coursework, etc., always, always, always put your selection inside quotes and give it a page reference. This way you should avoid plagiarizing by mistake.

Both the above texts are included in:

Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze, The Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze omnibus : comprising poverty and famines, hunger and public action, India: economic development and social opportunity, Oxford University Press India, 1999.

at the gouging price of £44.99 (three years ago it was about half that). Cheaper, second-hand, copies are available on Amazon, Abebooks and other online book dealers. The Omnibus also includes Drèze and Sen’s India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity. The Omnibus is also available in the Library but to find it you will have to e.g. do a keyword search with keywords like ‘Drèze’ ('Dreze' will do), ‘Sen’, and ‘Omnibus’. If you just search for Poverty and Famines, the Omnibus won’t come up and you wouldn’t know it was there.

S. R. Osmani, ‘The entitlement approach to famine: an assessment’ in K. Basu, P. Pattanaik and K. Suzumura (eds.) Choice, welfare, and development : a festschrift in honour of Amartya K. Sen, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995, pp. 253-94. Also available in Jean Dreze (ed.) The economics of famine Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 1999, pp. 95-136.

Cormac O Grada, Famine : a short history, Princeton University Press, 2009.

Alex de Waal, Mass starvation : the history and future of famine ISBN: 9781509524709 (e-book), Polity, Cambridge, 2018.

['Cormac O Grada' is not short for Cormac Oliver Grada or Cormac Oswald Grada; the "O" is part of the last name. It would have been written "O' ", to form "O'Grada", until a few years ago. Now the apostrophe is often dropped on the grounds that it is an Anglicization and a mistaken one at that. It seems English people mistakenly wrote "O' " for "Ó", the Old Irish spelling of the patronymic prefix, meaning "grandson of" or "descendant of". It is similar to the Scottish "Mac-" or "Mc-" and the English "-son" or "-ing", as in Boris Johnson and George Canning, the British Prime Ministers.]

To buy: Go to and/or the second-hand books web-site Abebooks is now owned by Amazon. New and second-hand book dealers who pay their taxes are also available. I use for more popular books and for more academic material. If buying through online sites beware the ‘Print on demand’ possibilities or books which you are told are ‘Brand New!’ even though they were first published years ago. These are glorified photocopies.

Aim: By the end of the module you should be familiar with Hunger & Public Action and Poverty & Famines, and have read parts in detail. You should have read Osmani’s paper (all the way through!) and thoroughly digested it. O Grada’s book is an easy but interesting read by the foremost historian of the Irish Famine: there’s not a lot of economics in it but it will give you a useful overview and context. Alex de Waal is the most important writer on famine apart from Amartya Sen himself. His latest book is an excellent empirical survey, although he remains innocent of economics. De Waal and O Grada are both good reads for the Christmas vacation!

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Reading for your ACW Essays

It is your job to find out information for your assessed essay from books, academic journal articles, official and other reports and documents, and from the world wide web. Some slides on how to do this, tailored to the particular needs of this module, will be made available in Week 4 or thereabouts. Your ability to find information is one of the items assessed by your ACW and you will gain marks for this aspect of your work if you do it well.

This list was last updated on 28/09/2021