An Edible History of Humanity
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2011)|
An Edible History of Humanity is a book written by Tom Standage that encompasses the history of the world from prehistory to modern day times through the tracing of foods and agricultural techniques used by man.
Standage's book is divided into 6 major sections starting in prehistoric times and advancing up to present day. The first section introduces hunting and gathering to the reader, as it was the most highly used technique for obtaining food for the duration of prehistory and into recorded history. Standage is brief on this subject, however.
He quickly moves on to agriculture and farming techniques, as it was the most significant advancement in the existence of mankind, allowing a specialization of jobs to occur. Along with this specialization came government, social structure, laws, culture, and almost every aspect of life that humans possess today. Moving into the second section, Standage defends his thesis (of the current section) that farming is a man made, unnatural system. He does so by introducing maize, which, as stated by Standage, is an altered, man-made crop. Maize is a major topic in this book as it has become a major staple throughout the world today.
The author leads into the third section with the subject of rice. He states that maize was and is the staple of the West and rice was and is the staple of the East. Potatoes are yet another example given by Standage as he supports his claim that farming is unnatural, as potatoes are said to be a creation of man. Thomas Malthus is also introduced by Standage, and he possessed a theory that the world's growing population could not be withheld by the agriculturally based food supply. This was once again proven by Standage through the Great Famine in Ireland beginning in 1845, as Malthus had stated.
Standage then begins to discuss industrialization moving into the latter sections of this book. Louis Pasteur and his system of pasteurization are a main point for many pages in An Edible History of Humanity. The ability to put food into a can and have it not rot was a huge feat accomplished, with the help of Pasteur, that Napoleon utilized during his conquests of vast lands in order to feed his troops. Furthermore, the Green Revolution is discussed by the author for a good deal of time, and this was simply a breakthrough in farming technologies and techniques that occurred in the 1940s to roughly the 1970s. Communist leaders in China and the USSR used deceitful tactics to starve millions of their people to death, leading into the final section titled Food as a Weapon.
Standage, Tom. An Edible History of Humanity. New York: Walker & Co, 2009. Print.
- Jaine, Tom. "Cherchez le pain". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 December 2011.