Date of Award

Summer 2001

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Director

Annette Finley-Croswhite

Committee Member

Kathy Pearson

Committee Member

Douglas Greene

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.H47 A38 2001


Famine in early modern Europe was a reoccurring phenomenon that caused stress on individuals and their societies. In most historical accounts of famine, authors have placed emphasis on either the physical aspects of starvation, including studies of famine victims, both live and post mortem, or the disastrous effects of such crises on demographics. On occasion, a researcher has instead probed the accounts of famine left behind by its victims. This essay is an attempt to correlate famine narratives with the biological aspects of starvation.

In order to blend the physical and social aspects of famine, this researcher has investigated three subsistence crises that occurred in Rouen, France in 1591-2, in La Rochelle, France in 1628, and in northwestern England in the 1590s. Statistical data about birth and death rates from Rouen and northwestern England provide the necessary demographic information, and accounts of the suffering from inhabitants of La Rochelle highlight the cultural data. The demographic and cultural accounts of these three famines, along with an intensive study of the physical and psychological affects of famine, provide evidence that famine in early modern Europe was devastating both to an individual's mind and body and to his or her society as a whole. This famine study is based on the idea that any investigation of famine should include both demographic research and cultural exploration of the phenomenon. It is interdisciplinary, incorporating medical literature, scientific studies, demographic research, and literary accounts of famine to define famine both clinically and culturally.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).