July 26th 2022

PA.121 | Feeding Civilians: Food Crises in Wartime

Parallel Sessions
This panel explores civilian experience with wartime food crises, focusing on the twentieth century when food access became a deliberate weapon of war. The era of total war made civilians targets for military action, to cripple productive capacity and damage morale in war economies reliant on civilian mobilization. Transportation infrastructure and industry were targeted to damage output and disrupt supplies and troop movements. Blockades sought to cut transit lines for essential food supplies; food policies in invaded and occupied regions were used to subjugate and in some cases starve subject populations. Governments at war created rationing systems and food supply administrations in order to allocate scarce, frequently insufficient food resources. Papers on this panel explore national experience, especially the government policies to provide food to civilians and how civilians were affected by the food policies and food shortages.
H - Public Economics
Mouré Kenneth - University of Alberta
“Feeding Occupied Paris: What Went Wrong?”
Mouré Kenneth - University of Alberta
Food crises in World War II were in many cases the result of deliberate policy. France, thanks to its agricultural wealth and the relative calm of the years of German Occupation from June 1940 to June 1944, was not under threat of serious famine. But many went hungry, particularly the working classes in cities. This was partly a result of Nazi policies, but partly as well the result of the agricultural and food policies to manage shortages, designed and implemented by Philippe Pétain’s Vichy state. This paper focuses on the food supply and its distribution in Paris to assess the severity of shortages and to evaluate the relative responsibilities of the German military administration, Vichy’s food management, local authorities’ efforts to circumvent national policies in feeding local populations, and the dynamic for grassroots economic and social networks to support the diversion of food to alternative paths for distribution, through amical exchanges and the black market. The paper draws on state archives for the ministries of agriculture (including food supply), the interior (department administration and police), justice, the Paris police, and the many diaries and memoirs that record individual experience during the Occupation.
“Food Resources for the Next War: French and British Planning in the 1930s”
Clotilde Druelle-Korn - IDHEs UMR-CNRS
"Spinning Cotton into Grain: Gender and Work Relief in the Wartime Henan Famine of 1942-43"
Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley - San Diego State University
This paper examines gendered experiences of famine and famine relief campaigns during China's Henan Famine of 1942-43. The wartime Henan Famine, which killed between 1 and 3 million people, occurred in the context of both a severe drought in North China’s strategically important Henan Province, and a brutal tri-polar struggle between the invading Japanese army, China’s Nationalist government, and Chinese Communist forces. During the famine, Nationalist government officials in unoccupied parts of Henan and its neighboring provinces, as well as their Communist rivals located in base areas behind Japanese lines, promoted gendered work relief campaigns that aimed to feed starving women by arranging for them to earn grain by spinning and weaving cloth. Missionary relief workers and other foreigners active in wartime China launched similar endeavors. These campaigns had patriotic, economic and social goals, including supporting China’s wartime resistance by engaging famine refugees in textile production that could address serious wartime shortages, and curtailing the widespread practice of selling famished girls and women as child brides or prostitutes. In the case of the spinning and weaving movement organized by the Communists in their Taihang Base area in 1942, women’s spinning co-operatives also aimed to “liberate” women and change production relations within the family. This paper compares and contrasts the gendered famine relief efforts conducted by the Nationalist state and its Communist rivals during the wartime Henan Famine, and evaluates the aims and impact of these campaigns.
"Between the Hammer and the Anvil: Civilian Supply and the Targeting of Food during the First Indochina War"
Christopher Goscha - Université du Québec  Montréal
Food and its supply were an essential part of the war the French and the Vietnamese fought against each other in Indochina between 1945 and 1954. The French unleashed a series of "rice wars" and "blockades" designed to undermine their enemy's ability to feed their army and population. This including sending troops into the fields at harvest time. It also meant the strategic bombing of the enemy's agricultural infrastructure (dikes, dams, canals, etc). The Vietnamese led by Ho Chi Minh did their best to extract food from the rural population where their state and army operated. They needed the civilian population to produce more to feed a growing army and civil service. Caught in the middle was the Vietnamese civilian population itself. This paper examines how the French and Vietnamese conducted their warfare on the economic front with special attention paid to food, its supply, destruction and the impact this had on the Vietnamese civilian population caught between the hammer and anvil. Famine was one of the results.
“Hunger Games: Talking about Food Shortage in the Diaries of Children in East Asia”
Aaron Moore - University of Edinburgh
"'Men in the Kitchen': British Propaganda and Gender Role Representations in the Second World War"
Kelly A. Spring - George Washington University
The Second World War ushered in a total war, requiring the full effort of the British home and military fronts. Such efforts to win the conflict were constructed in relation to idealized gender roles of the male soldier and female domestic. However, shifting realities required gender roles to bend, reshape, and change to fit the needs of war. From the start of the conflict, officials extolled women to feed their families wisely and nutritiously, while catering to their consumption wishes on limited wartime rations. But as more men were called up to fight, women volunteered, or were conscripted for defense work to keep the war machine going. As a result, the Ministry of Food sought to relieve women of their double burden of work by encouraging men to take up a role in the kitchen, shifting the projection of gender roles in propaganda to align with the situation. From late 1941 onwards, the MoF created the “Man in the Kitchen” series as part of “The Kitchen Front” radio broadcast and “Food Front” newspaper column. This paper will explore the “Man in the Kitchen” series to examine what activities government officials envisioned for men in the British home front kitchen. It will argue that despite the seeming change in gendered responsibilities surrounding domestic cookery, the wartime propaganda tended to reinforce, rather than dislodge women’s primary role with meal provisions in the home. This presentation will explore the different projections of men’s roles in propaganda, namely as food experimenters, food assistants, and food managers.
"Why the German Hunger Policy in Russia Failed in WW2, and How the Soviet Union Managed to Avoid Devastating Famine"
Stephen Wheatcroft - University of Melbourne
“'Change Your Eating Habits': State interventions to feed civilians and popular responses in India during the Second World War”
Abhijit Sarkar - University of Oxford