For as long as there have been people, there’s been famine. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors developed agriculture because, although most people’s diets actually got worse when they started farming, it was easier to build up the stores needed to survive a future shortage. Famines still happened, though; bad weather, disease, or pests could destroy the crops, and that usually meant starvation would follow. Famines are described in the Bible and the works of Greek and Roman historians. They regularly devastated Europe through the Middle Ages and as late as the 1840s, when blight ravaged the whole continent’s potato crop (not just Ireland’s) and killed over a million people.
What fewer people know is that famine has also reared its ugly head in the USA – and reduced some of the earliest settlers to squalor, degradation and finally cannibalism. It was an episode that threatened the whole idea of European settlement in North America; it also contains a lot of lessons for preppers.