This lecture explores a modern paradox: while food production increased dramatically during the 20th and early 21st Century, food insecurity, malnutrition and famine remain common conditions that have caused hundreds of thousands of excess deaths. This lecture focuses on the scientific and technological advances that were made in famine relief and emergency feeding during the 20th Century, and explains why these advances, while effective, are unlikely to ever completely end food crises. For a variety of political and economic reasons, famines are here to stay, and we should expect to see more, not fewer famines in the near future.
Jenny Leigh Smith is Associate Professor of History in the Humanities Division of HKUST. She was previously Assistant and Associate Professor of History at the Georgia Institute of Technology. In 2016, she was awarded a prestigious Carnegie Fellowship to support her current project, a history of famine in the 20th Century. More broadly, her research focuses on the global impact of industrialization on agriculture, food security, and rural environments.