The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food

The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food

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by Lizzie Collingham
     
 

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A comprehensive evaluation of the crucial role of the global food economy in the waging of war.

The starvation policy of the Nazi occupiers and the wartime exigencies that effectively transformed the diet as we know it are only two important aspects to this fascinating, authoritative work on food and war. In order to keep an army running smoothly and the

Overview

A comprehensive evaluation of the crucial role of the global food economy in the waging of war.

The starvation policy of the Nazi occupiers and the wartime exigencies that effectively transformed the diet as we know it are only two important aspects to this fascinating, authoritative work on food and war. In order to keep an army running smoothly and the civilian population pacified, writes Collingham (Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerers, 2006, etc.), a government had to control the food supply. This was equally true of Britain, Germany, Japan and the U.S., though it played out very differently during World War II. Creating a National Socialist empire relied on becoming self-sufficient, especially after the legacy of hunger and defeat wrought by World War I. According to Herbert Backe's Hunger Plan, occupation of the Ukrainian breadbasket would deliver the resources to Germany only if the flow of food could be shut down to Russian cities, thus starving 30 million Soviet citizens (also Jews, indigenous inhabitants and prisoners of war). In the throes of an agricultural crisis, Japan was more reliant on imports from its colonies Formosa and Korea and later suffered starvation during the American blockade; moreover, the white-rice-based diet provided insufficient protein for the Japanese troops, and a more Chinese and Western diet was adopted. Britain relied heavily on its colonies to feed the wartime appetite, as well as on U.S. lend-lease supplies, only suffering from want during the winter of 1940-41 because of the U-boat blockade. Indeed, American farmers supplied the bounty of global wartime needs and also offered ample food at home. Collingham study casts a staggeringly large net. She examines terrible famines in Bengal and Greece, the Soviet ability to withstand starvation, the role of the black market and how nutritional science reshaped the diet of soldiers and civilians.

A definitive work of World War II scholarship.

Editorial Reviews

THE GUARDIAN (UK)
“Ambitious, compelling, fascinating”
The Wall Street Journal
In Ms. Collingham's sweeping international history embracing high politics and local realities, we see the critical importance of food—and its pursuit—for the major combatant nations. The interconnectivity of the global food trade; the dependence of most of the combatants on food imports; the draining of resources necessary for food production, transportation and distribution; and the inescapable dependence of humanity on a minimum daily caloric intake—all made "the battle for food" not just an economic but a strategic and social one as well. On every level and at every stage, from the conflict's origins and execution to the policies toward civilians and prisoners of war, World War II was influenced by the struggle to control agricultural resources.
The Nation
Examining in detail the role played by food in the greatest of all political conflicts, the Second World War, was a brilliant idea on Collingham's part. The Taste of War is breathtaking in its breadth and scope, global in coverage and yet anchored in detailed research.
Richard Overy
“Every now and again a book comes along that transforms our understanding of a subject that had previously seemed so well worn and familiar.  That is the measure of Lizzie Collingham's achievement in this outstanding global account of the role played by food (and its absence) during the Second World War.  It will now be impossible to think of the war in the old way.”
Andrew Roberts
“Fascinating…After this book, no historian will be able to write a comprehensive history of the Second World War without putting the multifarious issues of food production and consumption centre stage.”
Max Hastings
“Lizzie Collingham's book possesses the notable virtue of originality...[She] has gathered many strands to pursue an important theme across a global canvas. She reminds us of the timeless truth that all human and political behaviour is relative.”
Diane Purkiss
“Powerful and important”
Library Journal
The role of food during World War II? It sounds specialized, but consider: 20 million people died during the war from starvation or malnutrition alone, equal to the number of military deaths. The Nazis set about eliminating "useless eaters." British rationing worked at home, but wholly preventable famine killed millions in India. And though America's food production remained strong, it was at this time that our "fast-food nation" got its start. Intriguing for informed readers.
Kirkus Reviews
A comprehensive evaluation of the crucial role of the global food economy in the waging of war.

The starvation policy of the Nazi occupiers and the wartime exigencies that effectively transformed the diet as we know it are only two important aspects to this fascinating, authoritative work on food and war. In order to keep an army running smoothly and the civilian population pacified, writes Collingham (Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerers, 2006, etc.), a government had to control the food supply. This was equally true of Britain, Germany, Japan and the U.S., though it played out very differently during World War II. Creating a National Socialist empire relied on becoming self-sufficient, especially after the legacy of hunger and defeat wrought by World War I. According to Herbert Backe's Hunger Plan, occupation of the Ukrainian breadbasket would deliver the resources to Germany only if the flow of food could be shut down to Russian cities, thus starving 30 million Soviet citizens (also Jews, indigenous inhabitants and prisoners of war). In the throes of an agricultural crisis, Japan was more reliant on imports from its colonies Formosa and Korea and later suffered starvation during the American blockade; moreover, the white-rice-based diet provided insufficient protein for the Japanese troops, and a more Chinese and Western diet was adopted. Britain relied heavily on its colonies to feed the wartime appetite, as well as on U.S. lend-lease supplies, only suffering from want during the winter of 1940-41 because of the U-boat blockade. Indeed, American farmers supplied the bounty of global wartime needs and also offered ample food at home. Collingham study casts a staggeringly large net. She examines terrible famines in Bengal and Greece, the Soviet ability to withstand starvation, the role of the black market and how nutritional science reshaped the diet of soldiers and civilians.

A definitive work of World War II scholarship.

From the Publisher
"Ambitious, compelling, fascinating."
THE GUARDIAN (UK)

"Every now and again a book comes along that tranforms our understanding of a subject that had previously seemed so well-worn and familiar. That is the measure of LIzzie Collingham's achievement in this outstanding global account of the role played by food (and its absense) during the Second World War. It will now be impossible to think of the war in the old way."
Richard Overy, LITERARY REVIEW

"Fascinating... After this book, no historian will be able to write a comprehensive history of the Second World War without putting the multifarious issues of food production and consumption centre stage." 
Andrew Roberts, FINANCIAL TIMES

"Lizzie Collingham's book possesses the notable virtue of originality... [She] has gathered many strands to pursue an important theme across a global canvas. She reminds us of the timeless truth that all human and political behaviour is relative."
Max Hastings, THE SUNDAY TIMES

“An important, original contribution”
— Booklist

“A definitive work of World War II scholarship.”
Kirkus

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594203299
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/29/2012
Pages:
656
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.04(h) x 1.37(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Richard Overy
“Every now and again a book comes along that transforms our understanding of a subject that had previously seemed so well worn and familiar.  That is the measure of Lizzie Collingham's achievement in this outstanding global account of the role played by food (and its absence) during the Second World War.  It will now be impossible to think of the war in the old way.”
Max Hastings
“Lizzie Collingham's book possesses the notable virtue of originality...[She] has gathered many strands to pursue an important theme across a global canvas. She reminds us of the timeless truth that all human and political behaviour is relative.”
Andrew Roberts
“Fascinating…After this book, no historian will be able to write a comprehensive history of the Second World War without putting the multifarious issues of food production and consumption centre stage.”
Diane Purkiss
“Powerful and important”

Meet the Author

Lizzie Collingham is the author of Imperial Bodies: The Physical Experience of the Raj and Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors. Having taught history at Warwick University she became a Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge. She is now an independent scholar and writer. She has lived in Australia, France, and Germany and now lives near Cambridge with her husband and small daughter.

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The Taste of War 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An approach to WWII which has been generally ignored is the significant issue of food distribution. The Germans and Japanese used food as a weapon. Millions were starved to death in Germany and all areas in which it fought. It is estimated that 20-30 million Soviet citizens were wiped out in this manner. Superbly done. Well worth the read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book provides vital insite to the cause and effect of food, starvation and the importance of maintaining a sound agricultural base within the United States. Tammera Karr PhD