Food in Europe, 1500-1950

History 103B.001

Spring 2018
3104 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
Tu 12-2
Class Number: 

The history of food as a recognized subfield is relatively young. Sociologists and anthropologists discovered it well before historians did. And yet, food lies at the basis, not only of human survival, but of all political, social, economic and cultural systems. The viability of every state rests on the adequate provisioning of subjects, particularly in the urban metropolis, but also in the military. Grain supplies have always been one of the most basic tests of the mobilizing capacity of the state. Management of dearth in staple goods is no less important in maintaining social cohesion. But luxury goods and the drive to command their production and exchange have been no less important as a motor of historical change. Trade in spices and sugar was an early causal factor in colonization among early modern European states. Both also played a role in the conspicuous consumption that played a role in the maintenance of political and social hierarchies.

This course will provide students with an opportunity to read across the disciplines—social, economic, intellectual, and military, not to mention cultural and intellectual. Most particularly, this seminar will train students how to analyze secondary sources, to distill a research question and an argument. These skills will prove useful to history majors when they come to write a senior thesis. At the end of the semester, they will have the choice between writing a 10-12 page synthetic essay or a thesis prospectus.