Peter Bowbrick on Famine



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Academic Fraud


Brief summary
Full analysis
Current state
Academics challenge Sen's facts
Key documents


"It is easy to wake someone who is sleeping. It is hard to wake someone who is pretending to sleep." - proverb

Amartya Sen has produced a theory that nearly all famines are not due to a decline in food availability, but rather to an increase in consumption by one group of the population which means that less is available to other groups, who starve. In Poverty and Famines he attacked a straw man of a Food Availability Decline (FAD) theory to justify his own entitlement theory. He produced a large amount of evidence, mainly from the Bengal famine of 1943 to support this. His Nobel Prize was granted mainly for this theory and theory built on it.

It takes a few minutes with a calculator to show that Sen’s theory cannot be correct: it is just not physically possible for one group to eat so much that most of the population goes hungry and millions of people starve. The figures on population, food consumption etc that you need to do the calculation yourself with are to be found here Statistics for you to check with

This means that there must be something wrong with the large amount of evidence that he produced to support his theory. And it is simple enough to check all his evidence against his sources and find that he systematically misstated the facts to support his theory. If his theory is wrong and has been applied, millions of people have starved unnecessarily.

The misstatements are meticulously documented in my papers which are on this web site. Neither Amartya Sen nor anybody else has challenged me on these, though they have had ample opportunity. The documents which Sen cited are extremely difficult to obtain - the Government of India at the time had reason to limit circulation to the minimum. This would explain why nobody checked his citations.

It should not take two hours to confirm that my citations are correct: I have put the key document Amartya Sen relies on on this web site. It should not take more than two days to check all the misstatements I have identified, and confirm that he has systematically misstated his facts to support an untenable theory. Source documents on Bengal Famine

Sen has always had a reputation for misstating his facts. There are several papers by other people who showed that he misstated the facts on the Bengal famine - people who were not aware of my refutation. Academics contest Amartya Sen's "facts" on famine

For a very brief summary of the case against Sen Brief case against Amartya Sen

For a full analysis of Sen's theory, and the misstatements he makes, Peter Bowbrick,  How Sen's theory causes famines in Word, or in HTML How Sen's theory causes famines

For the current state of the controversy, Peter Bowbrick, Current state of controversy

Peter Bowbrick, “Are boom famines possible?” 

Peter Bowbrick, “Can speculation cause famines?.”

 I am always happy to help anyone who cannot find documents, my own or anyone else's. Just e-mail me at

Peter Bowbrick, “Five Famine Fallacies” in Julian Morris and Roger Bate (eds.)  Fearing Food: risk, health and environment, Butterworth Heineman, Oxford.  ISBN 0-7506-4222-x, 1999

 Peter Bowbrick, “Rejoinder: an untenable hypothesis on the causes of famine”, Food Policy. 12(1) 5-9, February. 1987.   See also George Allen “Famines: the Bowbrick-Sen dispute and some related issues,” Food Policy, 11(3) 259-263, 1986, Amartya Sen “Reply: famine and Mr Bowbrick”, Food Policy 12(1) 10-14, and Amartya Sen “The causes of famine: a reply”, Food Policy 11(2) 125-132, 1986.  

 Peter Bowbrick, “A refutation of Sen’s theory of famine”, Food Policy. 11(2) 105-124. 1986.          

 Peter Bowbrick, A refutation of Professor Sen’s theory of famines. Institute of Agricultural Economics, Oxford. 1986.             

 Peter Bowbrick, “How Professor Sen’s theory can cause famines”, Agricultural Economics Society Conference. March. 1985.

Copyright Peter Bowbrick Moral right asserted.