Abu'l Hasan (attr) 'Emperor Jahangir Triumphing Over Poverty', circa 1620-1625; border: Uzbekistan, Bukhara, 16th century. Opaque watercolor, gold, and ink on paper. Image: 9 3/8 x 6 in. (23.81 x 15.24 cm); Sheet: 14 1/2 x 9 11/16 in. (36.83 x 24.61 cm). Los Angeles County Museum of Art, from the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, Museum Associates Purchase (M.75.4.28) www.lacma.org

Famine and Dearth in India and Britain, 1550-1800: Connected Cultural Histories of Food Security

Food security is a complex and polemical issue, but its currency and importance are hardly debatable given present concerns about environmental change, resource management, and sustainability. Largely investigated within the disciplines of the sciences and social sciences, in current or very recent historical contexts, the concern about long-term availability and distribution of food, has, nevertheless, a history that can be traced far back. Temporally, this project considers food security from an early modern perspective, and geographically and culturally, it compares attitudes towards this concern in India and Britain. It aims to recover and define the practices, discourses, and literary modes through which these selected past societies articulated concerns about food availability and distribution.

The project is funded by the AHRC and will run from 2014-16. It is a collaboration between members of the Departments of English at the University of Exeter and Jadavpur University, Calcutta. Our activities focus on researching relevant multilingual sources held in national and local archives and libraries in Britain, Bangladesh, and India. Besides analysing and publishing research findings in academic articles, the project team, based at the School of Cultural Texts and Records (Jadavpur), will work with the Digital Humanities team at Exeter to produce a publicly accessible website and database of selected primary sources and images relating to famine in India and Britain, 1550-1800. A workshop on "Food Security and the Environment in India and Britain", supported by the project partner, the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford, will be held to discuss findings, and test and debate the relationship between the sources and digital technologies used to create the project's analytical framework.


Emperor Jahangir Triumphing Over Poverty ("Dalidra"), circa 1620-1625. Attributed to Abu'l Hasan.

Credit: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)