according to my sources (most from italy - roman empire and it's
influence on recordkeeping) there even were no real famines, as
we think them to be today. hunger was a reality of the 3. to 6.
century. later there were regularly floods, freeze and drought
and hordes of robbers invading regions, but not the kind of
hunger we know today in africa and asia and there weren't plant
epidemies like in the 18th and 19th century. people were quite
inventive: they collected herbs and roots, baked "phantasy
breads", ate any kind of meat. and there was lot of "saltus" (as the
romans called the uncultivated soil in contrary to "ager", the
cultivated fields. then there were the "barbarians" (celtic and
germanic tribes, my predecessors), who always had enough of wild
animals for hunt. these were mostly pigs, but also horses and
cattle. bread was unknown to them, also wine, they drank milk and
met (kind of beer). and they ate lots of fat. hunger was unknown
to them and there are sources, where roman clerics complained
about the "barbarians, who do eat like cyclops unnatural amounts of
foods". there were only single years of hunger like in 591 and
the 11th century was a century of hunger, mostly because of heavy
rains. people ate people and at the marketplace of tournus
marketenders sold large amounts flesh of dead people.
but the most important invention of this time was probably the
invention of an unknown genuis: hay. In the classical world of
greece and rome and in all earlier times, there was no hay.
civilization could exist only in warm climates where horses could
stay alive through the winter by grazing. without grass in winter
you could not have horses, and without horses you could not have
up to the 13th century forests were turned into meadows, hay was
reaped and stored, and civilization moved north over the alps. So
hay gave birth to vienna and paris and london and berlin, and
later to moscow. people began to cultivate more wood and
production rose. but from just that time i found a source with a
yield ratio of 1:3 !!! (montanari, m; campagne medievali.
strutture proddutive, rapporti di lavoro, sistemi alimentari,
1984). translated to your nice example: that would make a 20t/ha
seeding rate !!
in the last decades of the 13th century and the beginning of the
14th food production declined sharphly. did this time fell into
the climate change you mentioned ?? i don't know anything about
climate in ancient times and every schoolboy who listened to his
history teacher, might know better...;-))
in the 15th and 16th century there was more than enough food and
people in the small german kingdoms and principalities had a
recorded average consumation of about 100 kg meat/person !!!!
(including children) take away the religious times of lents
(about 150 days a year) and you come to 400-500 gr of meat a day.
amazing, isn't it ? the french of these days ate 60-70 kg
meat/year, the italians 30 kg.
the large agricultural expansion phases were in the 16th and 18
>Better land and better technology presumably increased yield
>ratios --- and total harvest --- in the 11th century, but I
haven't found the data to back up that statement.
here i found exactly the contrary (mollat, m; les pauvres au
moyen age. etude sociale; paris 1978)
and the strangest thing i found: there was never such a thing as
a irish "potato" famine. millions of people died, but that was
NOT the result of the phytophthora alone. it was the occupying
power of the brits, the land tenure system and taxation. for
every shipload of (usually undigestible) food aid that reached
irish docks, six or more shiploads of cereal crops left irish
ports (source william fry et al. "historical and recent
migrations of phytophtora infestans: chronology, pathways and
implications, plant dieseases, july 1993, p. 653).
as i read the sources it became clear to me, what a fool i (and
evidently a lot of others) had been to believe, that the entire
irish farmland was planted with potatoes and people depended
entirely on one genus and would not have had the intelligence to
switch to grain and other fruits in the following years. (as i
wrote above, there WERE grains for seed, but they were shipped to
britain. no wonder the english are still hated by the irish..
the blight certainly was a catastrophy, but not merely one like
it is described today. sounds quite similar to today's famines in
ethiopia was using some of its prime agricultural land at the
height of the 1984 famine in the horn of africa to produce
linseed cake, cottonseed cake and rapeseed meal for export to
britain and other european nations as feed for livestock.
that might have been intelligent, if for every calorie they sold
they could have bought 2 from grain. but that was not the case.
so to the gentec-people: please do not talk to me of feeding the
starving!! Tewolde Berhan Gebre , ethiopia's
representative at the negotiations to draw up a biosafety
protocol as part of the convention on Biological
Diversity said it quite right:
"there are still hungry people in Ethiopia, but they are hungry
because they have no money, no longer because there is no food to
buy . . . We strongly resent the abuse of our poverty to sway
the interests of the european public."
shame on him: he simply forgot to mention the interests of our
big brother, the americans....
short note on hunger there:
The U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that requests for emergency
food increased an average of 14% during the period 1997-1998. One
out of five requests for food assistance went unmet. The AMERICAN
JOURNAL OF PUBLIC HEALTH in 1998 reported that 10 million
Americans -- including more than four million children -- do not
have enough to eat; a majority are members of families with at
least one member working.
there are a lot of things to correct in europe like Egziabher
said, but up to now we haven't sunk that deep to let our children
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