Losing the Farm: 20th Century Agriculture in a Global Context

History 103U.002

Fall 2011
Instructor (text): 
210 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
M 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 industrialization. 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 industrialization of agriculture in the United States and will then move to Mexico and Africa 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 industrialization 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 industrialization.