Causes & Consequences of the 1877-1879 Drought and Famine in Northeast Brazil

Project: PhD

Project Details


This research project seeks to explore the causes and consequences of the 1877-1879 drought in Northeast Brazil that resulted in the only recorded famine in Latin America in the 19th century. The objective is to understand through a historical event not only how societies cope with severe climate shocks, but also how these shocks lead to changes that potentially affect how they will cope with future shocks. It employs approaches from across different social science fields. New evidence at a meso-level and micro-level is used to explore mechanisms that link the drought with the famine, and the consequences of the famine in terms of societal transformability and adaptability. To answer why the 1877-1879 drought resulted in famine, this project reconstructs individual-level mortality at a parish-level and employs a latent class analysis to study the role of market performance in explaining the intensity of the famine. Then, it assesses the impact of local migration on famine intensity over the course of the drought with a comparative analysis of migration trends and mortality rates across municipalities. The transformative consequences of the drought and famine are investigated through their impact on slavery. It assesses the link between famine and slavery through the use of structural breaks in yearly municipal slave exports and slave emancipation rates. Lastly, it studies the consequences of long-run adaptation to the drought by evaluating the impact of national investments in dams and artificial lakes built between 1877-1920 on agriculture.
Effective start/end date1/01/22 → …


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