Module Catalogue 2022/23

HIS2306 : Famines in History

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Fergus Campbell
  • Lecturer: Professor Violetta Hionidou, Dr Joseph Lawson
  • Teaching Assistant: Mr Rob Granger
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
Pre Requisites
Pre Requisite Comment


Co Requisites
Co Requisite Comment



This module examines famines and hunger in history, focusing on nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Questions as to why famines happen; how do they start and how do they end; who dies and who survives; and what is their legacy are addressed. Malthus’ ideas of overpopulation and famine are discussed as those of Amartya Sen and his entitlements theory. Case studies will include the Irish famine, the Greek famine of the 1940s, the Ukrainian famine, the German post-war food crisis, food riots in Easter and Central Europe and the Great Leap Forward.

The aims of this module are:
•To acquire a sound knowledge of the subject of famines, reading widely and critically in the literature associated with it.
•To encourage the students to examine the subject from a variety of different perspectives.
•To encourage students to think about history comparatively and to draw parallels, connections and contrasts between different countries and populations.
•To provide an opportunity of investigating in some depth selected problems, including the appraisal of selected source material and the critical examination of current historiography.

Outline Of Syllabus

Outline syllabus, intended as a guide only; week-by-week topics may be slightly different to the following.
Defining famines; Causality of famines; Short-term effects of famines; Long-term effects; Role of relief; What do people die of in famines?; Sen's theory of 'Entitlements' or who is most likely to die in a famine; Who benefits from a famine?; case studies.

Learning Outcomes

Intended Knowledge Outcomes

•       An in-depth knowledge of the key ideas related to the causality and effects of famines
•       Knowledge of how famines 'functioned' in different populations/countries and at different times in history and how these compare and contrast.
•       Knowledge and understanding of the key historiographical debates concerning famines.

Intended Skill Outcomes

•       Development of the ability to formulate and answer historical questions.
•       The ability to think about the relationship between ideas and events.
•       Development of a comparative approach to historical study.
•       Development of associated skills in research, critical reading and reasoning, sustained discussion and appropriate presentation of the results.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture211:0021:0021 PiP lectures
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion671:0067:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading671:0067:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching91:009:00There will be a one hour seminar each week for 9 weeks
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops31:003:00There will be 3 one hour essay surgeries and a Q and A.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study331:0033:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

SEMINARS encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral presentation, interpersonal communication, problem-solving skills, research skills and adaptability.

LECTURES enable students to gain a wider sense of historical argument and debate and how such debates operate, which also allows them to develop comparisons between different historiographical debates.

SURGERY TIME: Essay surgeries will help students prepare for assessments.

Reading Lists

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise2M25Document commentary (1,000 words)
Essay2A75Essay that addresses comparative issues (2,000 words)
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2Mdocument commentary (1000 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

1. Work submitted during the delivery of the module forms a means of determining the student’s progress.
2. Summative assessment tests knowledge outcomes and develops skills in research and reading.

A formative exercise - a document commentary - will be set for this module. This will be un-assessed, but will be discussed in the seminars and will feed into the assessed document commentary.

This will be followed by the assessed documentary commentary which will prepare students for stage three work with primary sources.

The major assessment for this module is an essay that will allow students to critically engage with the key concepts of the module by researching and exploring the politics and culture of famines.

All Erasmus students at Newcastle University are expected to do the same assessment as students registered for a degree.
Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending semester 1 only are required to finish their assessment while in Newcastle. This will take the form of an alternative assessment, as outlined in the formats below:

Modules assessed by Coursework and Exam:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be one essay in addition to the other coursework assessment (the length of the essay should be adjusted in order to comply with the assessment tariff); to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Exam only:
The normal alternative form of assessment for all semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be two 2,000 word written exercises; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Modules assessed by Coursework only:
All semester 1 non-EU study abroad students will be expected to complete the standard assessment for the module; to be submitted no later than 12pm Friday of week 12. The essays should be set so as to assure coverage of the course content to date.

Study-abroad, non-Erasmus exchange and Loyola students spending the whole academic year or semester 2 are required to complete the standard assessment as set out in the MOF under all circumstances.


Past Exam Papers

General Notes


Disclaimer: The information contained within the Module Catalogue relates to the 2022/23 academic year. In accordance with University Terms and Conditions, the University makes all reasonable efforts to deliver the modules as described. Modules may be amended on an annual basis to take account of changing staff expertise, developments in the discipline, the requirements of external bodies and partners, and student feedback. Module information for the 2023/24 entry will be published here in early-April 2023. Queries about information in the Module Catalogue should in the first instance be addressed to your School Office.