Modernity's Hunger: How Imperial Britain Created and Tried to Solve the Problem of Hunger in the Modern World


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project examines how and why hunger became a problem in the modern world. Not simply a material condition, hunger was a capacious cultural category through which we moderns transformed the ways in which we thought of ourselves, our responsibilities to each other, as well as our relationships to the state and the market. Focusing on imperial Britain I explore how, between 1850 and 1950, hunger became seen less as a consequence of an individual’s moral failure to learn the market’s disciplines, than as a social problem that threatened all of society and demonstrated the systemic failures of liberal political economy. This shift generated new, remarkably decentred, schemes to render hunger governable that call into question our assumptions about the forging of welfare states.