PhD defence

'Force of Nature' Climate Shocks, Food Crises and Conflict in Colonial Africa and Asia,1880-1960

PhD Defence Kostadis Papaioannou, 2 June 2017, 16:00 hrs


Global climate change poses one of the most urgent challenges of our age. The increasing frequency and intensity of weather shocks, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, and hurricanes, adversely affect conditions of agricultural production and jeopardize efforts to achieve global food security. In recent years, there has been a rapidly growing body of literature across multiple scholarly disciplines aiming to quantify and assess the net effect of climate on a number of socially and economically relevant outcomes. Building entirely on original primary sources, this dissertation provides some of the first evidence in a colonial setting on the far-reaching effects of extreme climatic variability on raising property crime, triggering civil conflict and shaping patterns of human settlement. It provides evidence from British colonial Africa and Asia during the first half of the twentieth century (1880-1960). The research strategy consists of both a qualitative and an econometric component. By merging the theoretical and empirical insights of several strands of literature this dissertation has both academic and social merit. Its academic merit lies in its promise to unravel the net effect of climate on society from the many other contextual factors. And its social merit lies in its capacity to reveal key factors that mitigate the adverse effects of weather shocks, enabling effective and tailor-made policy interventions in relatively poor rural communities. This dissertation contributes to deeper explanations of long-term agrarian development in tropical Africa and Asia, and offers fresh input to academic and societal debates on how to mitigate the effects of weather extremes.