An Edible History of Humanity

Standage, Tom

Book - 2009
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
An Edible History of Humanity
The bestselling author of A History of the World in 6 Glasses brilliantly charts how foods have transformed human culture through the ages. Throughout history, food has acted as a catalyst of social change, political organization, geopolitical competition, industrial development, military conflict, and economic expansion. An Edible History of Humanity is a pithy, entertaining account of how a series of changes--caused, enabled, or influenced by food--has helped to shape and transform societies around the world. The first civilizations were built on barley and wheat in the Near East, millet and rice in Asia, corn and potatoes in the Americas. Why farming created a strictly ordered social hierarchy in contrast to the loose egalitarianism of hunter-gatherers is, as Tom Standage reveals, as interesting as the details of the complex cultures that emerged, eventually interconnected by commerce. Trade in exotic spices in particular spawned the age of exploration and the colonization of the New World. Food's influence over the course of history has been just as prevalent in modern times. In the late eighteenth century, Britain's solution to food shortages was to industrialize and import food rather than grow it. Food helped to determine the outcome of wars: Napoleon's rise and fall was intimately connected with his ability to feed his vast armies. In the twentieth century, Communist leaders employed food as an ideological weapon, resulting in the death by starvation of millions in the S oviet Union and China. And today the foods we choose in the supermarket connect us to global debates about trade, development, the environment, and the adoption of new technologies. Encompassing many fields, from genetics and archaeology to anthropology and economics--and invoking food as a special form of technology-- An Edible History of Humanity is a fully satisfying discourse on the sweep of human history.

Publisher: New York : Walker & Co., 2009
Edition: 1st U.S. ed
ISBN: 0802715885
Branch Call Number: 394.12 S785e 2009
Characteristics: xiii, 269 p. :,ill. ;,25 cm


From Library Staff

An Edible History of Humanity is a pithy, entertaining account of how a series of changes--caused, enabled, or influenced by food--has helped to shape and transform societies around the world.

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Feb 11, 2014
  • sherit rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A very informative book written in a rather dry style. Surely you could get more entertainment from watching the Kardishians (if that's your idea of entertainment), but you may get just a little bit smarter by reading this book.

Dec 17, 2012
  • jbohan rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

A well-written history of mankind and agriculture and how each has influenced the other. This is not a scholarly account, but one written for the general reader, so is short on citations, although it does have a nice bibliography. Standage's account is most interesting when he discusses the pre-Columbian and immediately post-Columbian world, least interesting when he wades into modern day food policy. He clearly has little understanding of the local food movement (he seems to think the entire movement is comprised of people who won't eat ANYTHING from outside their immediate vicinity, when this is a minority of localvores). All in all, worth a read, but only if the topic is very new to you. If it interests you, dip into some of the works in his bibliography.

Aug 27, 2011
  • zipread rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

A history of people and the plants and animals and how their existence has become intertwined over the years. I am reminded of Cultural Geography 201, circa 1965. If you took the course the content is old hat --- if you didn’t then the content may be new to you. The approach is encyclopedic --- it’s an overview. Any of the subtopics could have lent themselves to a fat book in their own right --- for example the section on food preservation, specifically canning, has been dealt with other others writing in a popular vein elsewhere. For most high school students, this material might be new. But will it hold their interest? It didn’t hold mine. You could spend your time profitably reading this book --- but you could do better.


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