The Great Vietnam Famine: Dr Gregg Huff Receives British Academy Grant

8th March 2016

Dr Gregg Huff, Senior Research Fellow at Pembroke with a focus on Economic and Social History, has been awarded a grant from the British Academy to write a study of ‘The Great Vietnam Famine, 1944-1945’.

Dr Huff’s study aims to provide the first quantitative assessment of Vietnam’s 1944-1945 great famine. The famine is of prime historical importance because in the French protectorates of Tonkin and North Annam it claimed the lives of 1.3 million people; and because it was instrumental in the August 1945 Viet Minh and communist revolution.

Mass famine changed Vietnam’s history and two decades later that of the United States as well. Through econometric analysis the project will examine the famine’s unequal impact, construct probabilities of death according to household and occupational characteristics, and attempt to relate the incidence of famine to Vietnam’s revolutionary provinces.

The findings of Dr Huff’s study will enable historians to distinguish between different, competing and hitherto unsatisfactory explanations that have put the famine down to the weather, French or Japanese administrative failures, and US aerial bombardment.

Dr Huff commented: ‘Beginning in the 13th century in north Vietnam’s Tonkin Delta, to try to manage water and rice cultivation, successive generations built a network of dykes comparable in construction to the pyramids of Egypt or the stone temples of Angkor Wat.   I look forward to travelling through the Delta and seeing this system of dykes.  It and severe flooding were instrumental in Vietnam’s Great Famine.’

Dr Gregg Huff