The Taste of Empire: How Britain's Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World

The Taste of Empire: How Britain's Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World

by Lizzie Collingham


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A history of the British Empire told through twenty meals eaten around the world

In The Taste of Empire, acclaimed historian Lizzie Collingham tells the story of how the British Empire's quest for food shaped the modern world. Told through twenty meals over the course of 450 years, from the Far East to the New World, Collingham explains how Africans taught Americans how to grow rice, how the East India Company turned opium into tea, and how Americans became the best-fed people in the world. In The Taste of Empire, Collingham masterfully shows that only by examining the history of Great Britain's global food system, from sixteenth-century Newfoundland fisheries to our present-day eating habits, can we fully understand our capitalist economy and its role in making our modern diets.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780465056668
Publisher: Basic Books
Publication date: 10/03/2017
Pages: 408
Sales rank: 587,589
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

Lizzie Collingham is an associate fellow at the University of Warwick. The author of three books, including The Taste of War and Curry, Collingham lives in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Introduction xv

Part I

Chapter 1 In which it is fish day on the Mary Rose, anchored in Portsmouth harbour (Saturday 18 July 1545) 3

How the trade in Newfoundland salt cod laid the foundations of the Empire

Chapter 2 In which John Dunton eats oatcake and hare boiled in butter in a Connaught cabin (1698) 15

How Ireland was planted with English, became a centre of the provisions trade and fed the emerging Empire

Chapter 3 In which the Holloway family eat maize bread and salt beef succotash, Sandwich, New England (June 1647) 29

How the English chased the dream of the yeoman farmer but were forced to compromise

Chapter 4 In which Colonel James Drax holds a feast at his sugar plantation on the island of Barbados (1640s) 41

How the West Indian sugar islands drove the growth of the First British Empire

Chapter 5 In which la Belinguere entertains Sieur Michel Jajolet de la Courbe to an African-American meal on the west coast of Africa (June 1686) 57

How West Africa exchanged men for maize and manioc

Chapter 6 In which Samuel and Elizabeth Pepys dine on pigeons a l'esteuve and boeuf a la mode at a French eating house in Covent Garden (12 May 1667) 71

How pepper took the British to India, where they discovered calicoes and tea

Part II

Chapter 7 In which the Latham family eat beef and potato stew, pudding and treacle, Scarisbrick, Lancashire (22 January 1748) 85

How the impoverishment of the English rural labourer gave rise to the industrial ration

Chapter 8 In which a slam family eat maize mush and possum on Middleburg plantation, South Carolina (1730s) 97

How the American colony of South Carolina was built on African rice

Chapter 9 In which Lady Anne Barnard enjoys fine cabin dinners on a voyage to the Cape of Good Hope (February to May 1797) 113

How the Empire stimulated the growth of the provisions industry

Chapter 10 In which Sons of Liberty drink rum punch at the Golden Ball Tavern, Merchants Row, Boston (a cold evening in January 1769) 129

How rum brought the American colonies together and split Britain's First Empire apart

Part III

Chapter 11 In which Kamala prepares a meal for her family, near Patna, Bihar (February 1811) 145

How the East India Company turned opium into tea

Chapter 12 In which Sarah Harding and her family grow fat eating plenty of good food in Waipawa, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand (29 July 1874) 159

How hunger drove the explosion of European emigration in the nineteenth century

Chapter 13 In which Frank Swannell eats bean stew, bannock and prune pie in British Columbia (15 November 1901) 171

How the industrial ration fed those who pushed out the boundaries of empire and processed foods became magical symbols of home

Chapter 14 In which the Reverend Daniel Tyerman and Mr George Bennet attend a tea party in Raiatea, the Society Islands (4 December 1822) 187

How the spread of European provisions colonised taste

Part IV

Chapter 15 In which diamond miners cook up an iguana curry at a rum shop in Guyana during the rainy season (1993) 199

How non-Europeans migrated to work on plantations producing tropical foods for the British

Chapter 16 In which the Bartons entertain the Wilsons to tea in the London Road slum district of Manchester (May 1839) 213

How the wheat for the working-class loaf came to be grown in America and the settler colonies

Chapter 17 In which Prakash Tandon enjoys a Sunday roast with his landlady's family in a Manchester council house (1931) 225

How foreign food imports improved the working-class diet and made Britain dependent on its Empire

Chapter 18 In which the recipe for irio changes (Kenya, 1900-2016) 239

How the Empire impacted on subsistence farming in East Africa and introduced colonial malnutrition

Chapter 19 In which infantryman R. L. Crimp eats bully beef and sweet potatoes in a forward camp in the North African desert (September 1941) 249

How the Empire supported Britain during the Second World War

Chapter 20 In which Mr Oldknow dreams of making an Empire plum pudding (24 December 1850) and Bridget Jones attends Una Alconbury's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet hunch (1 January 1996) 261

How Christmas fare took the Empire into British homes

Acknowledgements 277

Notes and References 279

Bibliography 321

Index 355

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