This article uses rural gazetteer biographies to examine village and household-level famine relief during the great North China Famine of 1876-9 to deepen our understanding of past relief methods and dynamics at the most local level. Despite the appearance of major works recently on famine in modern China, particularly on the Great Leap Forward, knowledge of Chinese famine relief remains thin and scattered considering the enormity of the subject. Nineteenth-century China saw intensifying international relief activity as well as the emergence of a vibrant charity-relief sector based in China's major cities, leading to the rise of prominent relief institutions in the twentieth century, such as the Chinese Red Cross. But the increasingly intense disasters of China's modern period also saw a surprising persistence of local humanitarian traditions still barely covered by historians.
- famine relief
- local history