Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Final Activity Report Summary - FAMINES (Famine and death in Western Europe, 10001350: Origins and Internationalisation of the European subsistence and mortality crises)

The main objective of the research project was to study the logic and the mechanisms of the internationalisation of the subsistence crises that simultaneously affected cities and distant regions of Western Europe within the context of a broad chronology between the mid-eleventh century and the thirteenth century. The existence of supra-regional or international famines suggested two great questions which this project sought to answer:
1. The geographic origin and causes of the famines. To determine which areas of Europe were first affected by the disparities between production and/or the commercial availability of grains and the food supply demand of the population, as well as to elucidate the causes of these disparities.
2. The diffusion of dearths. To determine the means of diffusion of famines and the factors that favoured this diffusion: the international trade in grain, the interconnection of the urban network, the war as a distorting factor in the free circulation of surplus, etc.

With this goal, the project undertook a broad survey of narrative Latin and vernacular sources from the eleventh to the thirteenth centuries (annals, chronicles, vitae, gesta, miracle collections, etc.) likely to contain direct or indirect information relating to bad harvests, high prices of cereals and other foods, food shortages, famines and mortality crises. The processing of the volume of information derived from more than 600 narrative sources, which constituted the empirical foundation of the investigation, has given rise to:
1) Geohistorical timeline of the food shortages and famines that affected Western Europe between the middle of the 11th century and the middle of the 13th century.
2) Cartographic representation of the information. I have prepared a map for each bad cycle, indicating the places for which we have original information and approximately indicating areas affected by dearth and hunger.
3) Catalogue of European dearths and famines. For each one of the nineteen supra-regional famines documented, I have established, in an approximate manner, its affected area, its chronology, its cycle (indicating phases of greater and lesser intensity), its relative intensity, as well as the causes contemporaneous sources gave for, and the possible real causes for, the triggering, evolution, and end of these crises.
4) Theoretical model of explanation which enables understanding of how a shortage or famine of regional origin can be converted into a general famine on the European scale (diffusion of the shortage), in which exogenous factors like commerce and the circulation of information relating to the prices and inventories of foodstuffs are decisive.
5) Anthology of texts for the study of European food shortages and famines during the central the Middle Ages.

Reported by

Follow us on: RSS Facebook Twitter YouTube Managed by the EU Publications Office Top