Food in World History

Course Description

This course will explore the cultural, economic, and geopolitical roles of foods and beverages in world history. Food and other essential everyday commodities serve as integral, although all too frequently unacknowledged, components of our daily lives. The critical study of food and the cultures which have sprouted up around its production and consumption holds great potential for illuminating the complex political, economic, and cultural processes which have shaped the emergence of our modern world. This course, therefore, will use foods and beverages as an analytical lens for examining a range of topics and themes in modern world history, including 1. imperialism and military conflicts, 2. global commercial relationships and economic dynamics, 3. morality, ethics, and public policy, 4. national, regional, and ethnic identities, 5. forms of structural violence, such as transnational corporate agriculture, “food aid” programs and “Third World” famines, and 5. the origins and decline of the Welfare State system during the post-WWII decades. By the end of the semester, students will be better able to appreciate not only food’s many roles within the shaping of the modern world and its politics, economics, and cultures, but also the complex ways in which people and societies around the globe are increasingly connected, and in some cases interdependent, via food and its production and consumption.


Institution & Term

  • University of California, Santa Barbara (Spring 2020)


Course Syllabus

  • Available upon request