Peasant food shortfalls during the colonial period were not emergencies in that they were unexpected but rather were a part of peasants' existence arising from failure to effectively control their natural resource base against the vacillations of nature. State famine relief represents the most elementary attempt at regularizing the productive base of precapitalist modes of production in transition. Famine relief was a major function of the colonial state. Current theories about the present food crisis tend to overlook the historical legacy of famine and consequently sensationalize or moralize a phenomenon which has been part and parcel of precapitalist modes of production throughout history. © 1981.
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