The Bengal Famine 1770

3 minute read

In India’s history, certain events echo as harrowing reminders of human suffering and the unforgiving forces of nature. The Bengal Famine of 1770 stands as one such catastrophic event, leaving an indelible mark on the pages of India’s colonial past. In this blog, we will learn more about the famine, its background, and its impact on Indians.


The Bengal Famine of 1770 occurred during the reign of the British East India Company, which had established a significant presence in India. In Bengal, there was a time of dual rule where the East India Company had been given permission to collect revenue but had not yet taken control of civil administration. This was during the reign of the Mughal governor, the Nawab of Bengal Nazm ud Daula, from 1765-72. The lack of rain led to crop failures, which caused widespread hunger. The British East India Company had recently acquired control of Bengal, and they were not prepared to deal with the famine. They continued to collect taxes from the people, even though they knew that many people were starving. The drought began in 1768 and lasted for two years. 

Reasons for the Bengal Famine of 1770

The reasons behind the famine of 1770 are complex and disputed. However, the following factors are generally considered to have played a role:

  1. A severe drought that lasted for two years.
  2. Crop failures due to the drought.
  3. The policies of the British East India Company, included the collection of high taxes and the export of food grains from Bengal.
  4. The decline of the traditional system of food distribution.
  5. The spread of disease.

Also Read – Bengal Partition: A Tale of Division between Hearts and Lands 

Impact of the Bengal Famine of 1770

It is estimated that up to 10 million people died, or about one-third of the population of Bengal. The famine was caused by a combination of factors, including a drought, crop failures, and the policies of the British East India Company.

The famine also had a devastating impact on the social fabric of Bengal. Many people were forced to abandon their homes and villages in search of food. There was widespread disease and death. Reports from the time describe horrifying scenes of people resorting to eating leaves, roots, and even human flesh to survive.

The famine had a lasting impact on the political fabric of Bengal. It led to the decline of the Mughal Empire. The famine also led to a loss of trust in the British East India Company, and it helped to pave the way for the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

A contemporary image of the Madras famine of 1877. Image Source: The Wire

Lessons Learnt

The Bengal famine of 1770 is a reminder of the devastating impact that famine can have on a society. It is also a reminder of the importance of good governance and social welfare policies in preventing famines. The following are some of the lessons that can be learned from the Bengal famine:

  •  The importance of early warning systems.
  •  The need to invest in agricultural development.
  •  The importance of social safety nets.
  •  The need to address the root causes of poverty and hunger.

The Bengal famine of 1770 is a tragedy that should never be forgotten. It is a reminder of the importance of taking action to prevent future famines.

Also Read- Partition of India and Pakistan (1947) 

In conclusion, the Bengal Famine of 1770 stands as a testament to the consequences of economic exploitation, environmental neglect, and the patience of the human spirit. It calls upon us to remember the suffering of the past and strive for a world where compassion, responsible governance, and environmental protection take precedence over profit and exploitation.

We hope you liked what you read. If you want to read more articles like this you can visit our general knowledge page on Indian History!

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