Losing the Farm: 20th Century Agricultural History in a Global Context

History 103U.002

Fall 2010
Instructor (text): 
204 Wheeler
Day & Time: 
W 10-12
Venus Bivar is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities. She received a PhD in Modern European History from the University of Chicago in 2010. Her interests include the history of agriculture, environmental history, and Utopian thinking.

Recent debates regarding food and farming have tended to turn
on the question of industrialisation. Some have argued that there are few things more nefarious than industrial agriculture, while others have countered that it has allowed
us to feed the world cheaply and efficiently. In this course, we will excavate the history of these debates by examining how agriculture has changed in the twentieth century. Given the reliance of twentieth-century agriculture on international trade networks, this course will be both transnational and comparative in its geographical scope. We
will begin with the industrialisation of agriculture in the United States and will then move to Mexico and India to discuss the Green Revolution, Cold War food politics, and the
relationship between the developed and developing worlds. In our last case-study, we will examine the industrialisation of agriculture in France, as both a consequence of American
foreign policy and a response to it. In addition to the case studies, we will discuss processes of globalization, the problem of postwar food surpluses, and the collapse of the
postwar global food system and the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. We will end the course by using what we have learned from our readings to engage in an informed evaluation of contemporary critiques of agricultural industrialisation.