Famine Chorography: Peter Mundy and the Gujarat famine, 1630-32

Dr Ayesha Mukherjee, University of Exeter


This paper attends to individual, local, and state-guided discourses of famine and dearth in seventeenth-century India and Britain, which expressed concerns about climate, place, and mobility. It argues that representations of famine in such discourses had a spatial basis, and their overlapping modes allow us to recover an early conception of food security which cut across national boundaries. The paper will thus focus on perceptions of space and place as driving factors for British understandings of alternating dearth and plenty in India. East India Company men, such as Peter Mundy, were constantly on the move, whether by sea or on land, and their accounts of travel and economic crisis in India adapted the developing modes of representing domestic mobility in Britain. I will look at some of their available local paradigms, and how and why these were reapplied in response to travel in India. I will use Mundy’s text and narration during the notorious Gujarat famine of 1630-32 as a case study.


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