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Food in World History , by Jeffrey M. Pilcher Food in World History , by Jeffrey M. Pilcher. Themes in World History. London, Routledge, 2006. viii, 132 pp. $100.00 US (cloth), $29.95 US (paper).

Authors:
Canadian Jottrnai of History/Anmtles canadiennes d'histoire XLIII. spring-summer/printemps-élé 2008 . 199
involving France" (p. 35). What a surprise this will prove to biographers who
have fairly confidently pegged War to Rousseau's memory of the Franco-
Prussian War and the bloody suppression ofthe Paris Commune in 1871.
More could be said, but notice should also be taken of how interestingly
Brandon examines areas she knows well or is interested in Anglo-Canadian
art, on the whole, and post-World War II art as long as she is not in a rush. An
and
War
has a worthy goal, and it is dotted with passages that will reward atten-
tion. It would have been better, though, had it been at least half again as long and
written with greater care.
John McCannon
University of Saskatchewan
Food in World History, by Jeffrey M. Pileher. Themes in World
History. London, Routledge, 2006. viii, 132 pp. $100.00 US
(cloth),
$29.95 US (paper).
The burgeoning field of food history has produced a number of weighty tomes in
recent years which attempt to survey the field broadly. Weighing in at an eco-
nomical 121 pages, divided into an introduction, a conclusion, and fourteen brief
chapters, Jeffrey Pilcher's Food in World History is one of the most recent
entries, and by far the most concise. He is able, however, to pack an impressive
amount of information and solid analysis into this compact volume.
Following a succinct introduction that lays out the central themes and con-
tentions of the book, the first chapter provides a rapid-paced overview of food
and foodways over the course ofthe first five thousand years of human civiliza-
tion. The remainder ofthe book is devoted to the past five hundred years and is
broken into three chronological parts.
The first section examines the profound changes in world foodways that
resulted from the Columbian exchange. After a chapter focusing on the familiar
story ofthe two-way, asymmetrical character ofthe encounter between European
and American flora, fauna and pathogens, the author turns to a single commodi-
ty, sugar, as a case-study. He shows how sugar replaced spices as the backbone
of long-distance trade, its role in the expansion of European slavery and the
impact of the rise in sugar consumption on societies, economies, and polities
throughout the Atlantic world. Pileher argues that the end result of this centuries
long process was a fundamental dietary transformation that saw sugar join grains
as a cornerstone ofthe modem diet. The penultimate chapter of
this
section pres-
ents a suggestive comparison ofthe introduction of new foods (coffee, tea) and
the refinement of elite cuisines in early modern France, England, and Japan.
The book's second part focuses on the nineteenth century and examines the
dramatic impact that industrialization and urbanization had on food production,
distribution and consumption. In response to the debate on the impact of indus-
trialization on the quality of life among the working classes, Pileher argues that
200 Canadian Joitrnaî of History/Annales canadiettnes d'histoire XLIII. spring-summer/prinlemps-été 2008
improvements in diet and nutrition lagged until 1850, but that in the second half
of
the
century the quantity and variety of foods available improved significantly,
with the result that scarcity and hunger, the age-old bugaboos of human society,
were largely exorcized, at least in the west. A particularly engaging chapter
examines what the author terms "culinary nationalism," that is the ways in which
food was mobilized in the creation and delineation of modem nation-states and
national identities. Building on this discussion, the section concludes with a con-
sideration of the role of food in western imperialism and its self-appointed civi-
lizing mission, as well as the impact that imperialism and the growing mobility
of populations had on foodways in both colony and métropole.
The fmal section brings the discussion into the twentieth century and the
post-national, global age; its chapters address a wide range of issues, including
the food politics of states during the world wars; the "green revolution" of the
post-war era in which industrialized agriculture yielded dramatic increases in
production with attendant environmental costs; the global spread of
the
fast food
culture of the United States; and the rise of what the author terms "culinary plu-
ralism" which is a product of the changing social, cultural, and political land-
scape of the age of globalism.
The great strength Food in
World
History is its global approach to food
history. Previously, the most popular food history texts focus heavily, almost
exclusively, on Europe and North America. While food in the west still is at the
centre of
his
treatment, Pilcher places this in an ongoing dialogue with examples
from Asia, Latin America, Africa, and even Oceania. This is not just window-
dressing either: one of the major contentions of the book is that the emerging
"global palate" is not so much an innovation of the contemporary world as "the
intensification of existing cross-cultural connections" dating at least to
Columbus (p. 87). A corollary argument is that this process must be understood
as a dialogue and not a hegemonical narrative of cultural and culinary conquest.
This is a solid little book that does an admirable job of incorporating a good
deal of recent scholarship on food and foodways in a succinct and accessible
fashion. It is a work of synthesis that is directed primarily at university students;
as a result it surveys the landscape rather than necessarily contributing new
insights. My only regret is that thé volume skims so quickly over the rich and
complex history of food from the domestication of plants and animals, through
the rise of
civilizations,
and the classical and medieval eras, in a single overview
chapter. While this makes perfect sense given that the book is the latest addition
to Routledge's series "Themes in World History," it does limit the text's useful-
ness for food history surveys. This is unfortunate as none of the current crop of
survey texts is entirely satisfactory: Tannahill's Food in History is engaging, but
dated; Civitello's Cuisine and Culture: A History is superficial and unreliable;
Toussaint-Samat's History of Food is simply too long and piecemeal. Flandrin's
and Montanari's
Food:
A Culinary History is the best of the batch, though it has
coverage imbalances, and it makes no effort at incorporating non-Western stud-
ies.
Because of
its
self-imposed parameters, I expect that this book will be of
pri-
mary interest to instructors wishing to incorporate a section on food into their
Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes d'histoire XLIll, spring-summer/printcinps-été 2008 201
world civilization courses. The text provides a useful and concise introduction to
a range of food-related issues that could work well in such a survey. Instructors
of food history courses, on the other hand, will probably find the text too gener-
al and too abbreviated for their use. Despite this. Food
in World
History is a wel-
come addition to the literature on early modern and modern food history, both for
its conciseness and its solidly global approach.
Eric R. Dursteler
Brigham Young University
Transatlantic Encounters: American Indians in Britain, 1500-1776,
by Alden T. Vaughan. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press,
2006.
$50.00 US (cloth).
This is a fascinating, fast-paced, thoroughly documented, and highly readable
book. It details, in twelve chapters, the extraordinary, often tragic, and sometimes
heroic stories of about 175 indigenous American voyagers who crossed the
Atlantic to England before the American Revolution. With a keen eye for colour-
ful detail, the author deserves praise for his efforts to identify and describe the
historical dramatis personae, their motives, challenges, and often unhappy end-
ings.
The first visitors came from Newfoundland about 1500, sailing aboard a
vessel from Bristol. Although we can only guess their ethnic identity, they were
probably Beothuk or Inuit captives, presented as exotic savages at the English
court. The final visitors were two Mohawk envoys, Thayendanega (alias Joseph
Brant) and Oteronyente (alias John Hill). Arriving in London in late 1775, they
came on the heels of a delegation of four Miskito leaders who had just left
England for a voyagé back to Nicaragua. With his "splendid" tribal costume and
headdress, Thayendanega was "an instant hit in England." As a Mohawk war
chief and British officer, he requested material support and improved policies in
exchange for Iroquois assistance against colonial rebels. Moreover, he took the
opportunity to protest encroachments of Mohawk territories.
Each of the book's eighteen images is well chosen and one could only wish
the publisher allowed many more illustrations. In addition to a famous 1616
engraving of Pocahontas, the author has selected less familiar etchings such as
the portrait of
an
exotic-looking Mohawk who had been commercially displayed
in Bristol in 1764, followed by showings in London and The Hague, after which
the proprietress of an Amsterdam inn purchased his exhibition rights.
Almost all indigenous travelers discussed here belonged to tribes or ethnic
groups occupying territories of British imperial interest. Many were Virginia
Algonquians, Mohawks, Cherokees, and Creeks, whose trips were sponsored by
colonial corporations or governments. Most, however, were Inuit (17 or 20) from
Newfoundland, Labrador, and Baffin Island.
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