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  • Hardcover
  • 269 pages
  • An Edible History of Humanity
  • Tom Standage
  • English
  • 10 March 2018
  • 9780802715883

10 thoughts on “An Edible History of Humanity

  1. says:

    The blurb summarizes this book perfectly Tom Standage can be relied upon to do comprehensive research for his non fiction books This book explains the history of mass produced food, sedentism, the disappearance of the hunter gatherer lifestyle, the use of food as weapons, or forms of power, from the earliest records available throughout the world The period spans from thousands of years before Christ until now The establishment of civilizations occurred when humans reconfigured, or modified plants for cultivation and plants ultimately did the same to humans The evolutionary process, changing from hunter gatherer to agricultural sedentism, spanned over thousands of years Complex societies in Mesopotamia took five millennia to develop, with those in the Americas and China taking thousands of years As urban societies became prominent, a diversity of jobs and professions resulted from it, which expanded the choices in lifestyle and social strata It was all made possible by the farmers who remained on the land and producing food than their subsistence lives required and could provide food to the masses living elsewhere Quite why humans switched from hunting and gathering to farming is one of the oldest, most complex, and most important questions in human history It is mysterious because the switch made people significantly worse off, from a nutritional perspective and in many other ways Indeed, one anthropologist has described the adoption of farming as the worst mistake in the history of the human race Genetic manipulation took place ever since people got the idea to harvest seed and plant it, domesticating certain species and ensuring the livelihoods of human beings An important point in the book is that everything we eat is genetically manipulated species of plants and animals man made technologies The history behind it is not only important, but it also brings valuable balance to any conversation around genetics and the role of natural selection Corn, cows, and chickens as we know them do not occur in nature, and they would not exist today without human intervention Even orange carrots are man made Carrots were originally white and purple, and the sweeter orange variety was created by Dutch horticulturalists in the sixteenth century as a tribute to William I, Prince of Orange An attempt by a British supermarket to reintroduce the traditional purple variety in 2002 failed, because shoppers preferred the selectively bred orange sort. Natural selection took place long before it became a Darwin theory It also happens in nature, with insects pollinating different species with each other s genetic materials, resulting in new species occurring over a period of time That may explain why domesticated plants and animals are so widely assumed to be natural, and why contemporary efforts to refine them further using modern genetic engineering techniques attract such criticism and provoke such fear Yet such genetic engineering is arguably just the latest twist in a field of technology that dates back than ten thousand years Herbicide tolerant maize does not occur in nature, it is true but nor does any other kind of maize. Most of the information contained in the text will probably be familiar to most of us However, the comprehensive collection of information from all over the world, ensures a much greater understanding of the modern trends and importance of food production Most importantly, the author shares his views on modern food production the current challenges and dangers Our biggest problem is high numbers in human populations and the limited natural resources to feed everyone.I love the author s work, and I love this kind of topic It is impossible to really summarize this book, there s just too much to mention All I can add is that it enhances our understanding of the world around us and how everything, from politics, religion, economy, and every other element defining our history and existence, is morphed into one comprehensive explanation with food as the underlying vein of life Agriculture would surely not be allowed if it were invented today And yet, for all its faults, it is the basis of civilization as we know it Domesticated plants and animals form the very foundations of the modern world. An Edible History of Humanity is a perfect coffee table book But it is also a great way of enjoying and stimulating interesting conversations around a dinner table Uhummmm I ve said that before already.Another of the author s books A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage I still mean it though The chapters are divided into topics such as Part I The Edible foundation of civilization The invention of farming the roots of modernity.Part II Food and Social structure Food Wealth and Structure Follow the food.Part III Global highways of food Splinters of Paradise Seeds of Empire.Part IV Food, Energy and Industrialization New world, new foods The Steam Engine and the potatoPart V Food as a weapon The fuel of war Food fight.Part VI Food Population and Develepment Feeding the world Paradoxes of plenty.Then, 288 pages later, the tale is told Great references are provided in the bibliography at the back of the book I did not read the book in one sitting I left it next to my bed and indulged in the mornings when the first coffee was ready and there was an hour of blissful silence before the day started It made the book so much interesting for me to absorb the information slowly and think about it Since there is no agenda behind the author s work, just the sharing of non biased history, it allows the reader to relax and just enjoy it Yes, I m really enjoy these kind of books Here s two others to consider for non fiction reading friends The Devil s Cup A History of the World According To Coffee by Stewart Lee Allen The Botany of Desire A Plant s Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan


  2. says:

    I didn t keep notes throughout this book, but I should have Standage did a great job showing various trends throughout history which made the last quarter about current times make far sense This is a high level look at food in general, some specific species populations, but still distant That was good for the purposes of the book, but I hope readers think about what these distant descriptions mean in reality.Malnutrition leading to infant mortality, shorter stature, susceptibility to disease are horrible How hungry does a woman have to become before she is less fertile How long does hunger have to gnaw at a child before they grow up inches shorter I know they can still feel full, but lack critical nutrients with the same result, but that generally leads to sickness How would it feel not to name a child until it is several years old due to the likelihood of losing it Still, Standage s agnostic overview helps make a lot of sense out of the economics of foods the trends they or their lack engendered This was especially interesting as he got closer to the present What should I make of Fritz Haber, the German chemist who made nitrogen fertilizer possible, who later used these same skills processes to create the first chemical gases used in WWI His discussion of The Green Revolution, GMOs, various farming techniques was also fascinating The Table of Contents is a pretty good indicator of what I ran into The edible foundations of civilizationThe invention of farmingThe roots of modernityFood and social structureFood, wealth and powerFollow the foodGlobal highways of foodSplinters of paradiseSeeds of empireFood, energy and industrializationNew world, new foodsThe steam engine and the potatoFood as a weaponThe fuel of warFood fightFood, population, and developmentFeeding the worldParadoxes of plentyI m so glad I gave this author a second chance I tried A History of the World in 6 Glasses didn t care for it This was a fantastic exploration of one of the most important pieces of our civilization I highly recommend it to all.


  3. says:

    I ll start by admitting that I gave up on this piece of trash half way through the audiobook After 5 hours of horrid narration I did not hear a single fact that was news to me, nor even an interesting interpretation of known facts The writing is disjointed, and meaningless extra words and phrases are thrown in so that the whole thing comes across as a first year history student s lazy attempt to meet the word count requirements for his assignment The author also editorializes in random, bizarre ways For example while discussing the spice trade, he suddenly goes on a tangential rant about his disagreement about the eat local movement He justifies his position against eating locally by talking about the western tradition of colonizing and trading with far off countries However he has no observations or opinions, or even mention, of the genocide and slavery that accompanied these activities.The author sounds like a throwback from the 1940 s, speaking in favour of colonialism, monoculture, heavy food exportation and even saying that it is in the best interests of developing countries to dedicate their land to the export of cash crops.And the narration is even worse than the writing The writer has tried to stretch out the book with a lot of excerpts from historical documents and the narrator does voices for these excerpts that are at best silly and annoying but often just sound racist If the excerpt was written from a western historian, the narrator does a voice that sounds like Johnny Carson s swami character But for the many excerpts from non western sources, the narrator does accents such as slow indian that are unbelievably offensive.


  4. says:

    Standage looks at food from a geopolitical, anthropological and ethical point of view The book is mainly about how food and agriculture have changed and keep changing history and development of humankind.I didn t find absolutely everything of interest to me there for example, I have read about spices and their role in the progress of mankind a countless number of times by now But there was enough other information to make it for a worthwhile read.Here are some tidbits of what I found interesting.Standage stands on middle ground between organic fundamentalism and blind faith in biotechnology He deftly overthrows a few myths about organic food unspoiled by civilization by pointing out that no crops are unengineered or organic any and have not been since the beginnings of agriculture The varieties of plants we eat today are very different and very remote from the plants they originated from Almost none of the foods we eat today can really be described as natural Carrots, for example, used to come in white or purple The sweeter orange variety that we eat nowadays was created by Dutch horticulturalists in the 16th century Grains we eat today were simple grasses with potential By the same token, the varieties if rice and wheat we eat today differ significantly from the varieties people ate at the beginning of the last century.When fertilizers were introduced after the First World War, grains started to grow lanky and tall and kept folding over themselves So new short stalk, big seadhead, disease resistant varieties were widely introduced Nowadays, 100% rice harvested in China and 74% of it in Asia overall, and 90% of wheat in Latin America and 86% in Asia are of the new varieties, and cereal yields in those countries have grown faster than the population There has been an effort to preserve the seeds of traditional varieties of plants around the world, and Norway built a global seed depository Svalbard Global Seed Vault seven hundred miles from the North Pole to house them The need for such a facility became pressing after various wars destroyed national seed banks in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and with them ancient varieties of fruits and cereals forever.An obscure maize grass and other grains we eat nowadays managed to domesticate man by making him adopt a new sedentary lifestyle Funnily enough, the hunter gatherers were taller and healthier and agriculture initially made man malnutritioned, shorter and prone to degenerative diseases like arthritis, but allowed him to reproduce much The hunter gatherers were healthier but not so numerous It s agriculture that led to the population explosion, and it will be the global industrialization that most probably will put a stop to it The main reason for that is that when a society makes a transition from an agricultural to an industrial state the average wealth of that society increases and the population growth declines Standage also discusses the new trend of trying to produce everything locally and says that it only makes so much sense The carbon footprint is actually smaller when crops are produced in conditions suitable for them climatically, so it s cheaper and less exhaustive for the environment to grow oranges in Egypt and potatoes on Prince Edward Island, for example In fact, lambs reared in England have a bigger carbon footprint than those imported to England from New Zealand, transportation included The same goes for biofuel even though it s well intentioned, it s a bad idea according to Standage He also makes interesting observations about food used as a political weapon Notably, he discusses Berlin blockade and food airdrops among others, and notices after Amartya Sen, an Indian economist who won a Nobel prize in Economics in 1998, that the combination of democracy and free press make famines much less likely to occur The worst famines in history happened in communist and dictatorial states China, the Soviet Union, Ethiopia and Somalia, and many dictators have blackmailed their countries populations with food.3.5 5


  5. says:

    This book SUCKS How do you give an edible history of humanity without talking in depth about SLAVERY and THE PEOPLE INVOLVED IN FOOD PRODUCTION that was my first reaction It would be accurate if he called the book, An Edible History of European Humanity The Only Humanity Worth Noting or An Edible Ignorance of the Dehumanization of Most of Humanity The only time he tries to speak for the lower classes is when he s railing against communism I also noted very early on that Standage is pro biotech aka GMOs, which are destroying not only crop diversity and the environment, but indigenous knowledges and sovereignty as well He just has a very linear, progress driven model of human history He s constantly quoting Malthus, with the whole we re all going to suffer and die because of over population which is a trap that could be avoided by not viewing history as linear, but as cyclical.I read the book for the history lesson which there was some of, so that was ok I guess.All in all, I do not recommend.


  6. says:

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  7. says:

    An Edible History of Humanity by Tom Standage An Edible History of Humanity is the interesting history of the world through the transformative role of food Science correspondent and accomplished author Tom Standage follows up his best seller A History of the World in 6 Glasses with another appealing book but this time it s about the intersections between food history and world history This informative 288 page book is broken out by the following six parts 1 The Edible Foundations of Civilization, 2 Food and Social Structure, 3 Global Highways of Food, 4 Food, Energy, and Industrialization, 5 Food as a Weapon, and Food, Population, and Development.Positives 1 Well written, well researched book Fluid narration.2 A fun way to learn about history through food.3 The very interesting topic of food s transformative role as a foundation for entire civilizations It answers the following question, Which foods have done the most to shape the modern world, and how 4 Standage offers many fascinating historical tidbits throughout the book In English a house hold s main earner is called the breadwinner, and money may be referred to as bread or dough 5 Debunks some perceptions about nature A cultivated field of maize, or any other crop, is as man made as a microchip, a magazine, or a missile 6 Good use of science to illustrate points Honestly, where would we be without the grand theory of evolution 7 The three most significant domesticated plants that laid the foundations for civilization wheat, rice, and maize.8 Explains why humans may have switched from hunting and gathering to farming.9 How the advent of agriculture led to wealth Food as currency.10 Religious practices and how it relates to food Human flesh and bloods were thought to be made from maize, so these sacrifices sustained the cosmic cycle Maize became blood, and blood was then transformed into maize 11 Fascinating history on the appeal of spices Local and global food.12 Find out what fruit was known as the fruit of kings Find out what vegetable was associated with witchcraft Great stuff.13 The impact of Christopher Columbus.14 Includes the sad history of sugar and slave trade.15 Many stories involve humankind s quest to feed its populace The rush to combat famine The potato famine and its consequences.16 Adapting Britain had dealt with the looming shortage of food by reorganizing its economy By switching from agriculture to manufacturing, Britain became the first industrialized nation in the world The fuels of industry.17 Explains how historical battles were decided by controlling food The invention of canned foods.18 The worst famines in history Not going to spoil it.19 The machine that changed the world of agriculture.20 The resurgence of new powers.Negatives 1 Notes not linked.2 Some minor formatting issues in the electronic version.3 Charts and diagrams would have added value.4 The title may mislead, this book has nothing to do with the taste of food edible.In summary, I enjoyed reading this book, Standage provides a fun way to learn about the role of food in history This book answers to my satisfaction the question of which foods have done the most to shape the modern world, and how It s not an in depth book and it certainly is not about the taste of food, but it does provide a fun, accessible way to learn about how food history intersects with world history I recommend it Further recommendations Catching Fire How Cooking Made Us Human by Richard Wrangham, Salt A World History by Mark Kurlansky, Spice The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner, Banana The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel, Cooked A Natural History of Transformation and In Defense of Food An Eater s Manifesto by Michael Pollan, and Food in History by Reay Tannahil.


  8. says:

    Read this, in installments, along with Charles C Mann s The Wizard and the Prophet on a scale of one to ten as used in Holland s schools I would score the latter a 10 , this one a 9,5 the two best books of the year so far both books provide a host of information that not only makes a hugely interesting historical tale but is pertinent to some of the most fundamental debates going on today.


  9. says:

    This book isn t really about eating food It s not about tasting food or cooking food An Edible History of Humanity is about food s place in world history the roles it has filled, the drama that has sometimes surrounded it and the absolute necessity for our world to deal with it on a daily basis.We start at the beginning, learning about hunter gatherers and the transition to farming based agriculture Food is discussed as a major reason why the world started being explored by countries that could afford it and how food has been used throughout the centuries as a way to separate the wealthy from the masses I was amazed by how many different conflicts and events were somehow or another related to special foods or a lack of food or an abundance of food and how often food was used as a weapon Some of the information is anecdotal, some is downright scientific or straight from a history textbook It all merges together in body of knowledge that was, for me, completely fascinating and utterly readable But then again, this stuff really interests me I always wanted to read around someone so I could talk about the things I was learning.I appreciate that this was truly a world history I learned about Africa, the spice islands, Europe and America, India and China Often it was the interaction between countries and their foodstuffs that was discussed in the context of each nation s desire to have enough food to feed its population and at the same time to hopefully have enough left over to export What a delicate balance, this feeding of a people How intricate and essential food is to our daily living It s interesting to look over history as a whole to see how far we ve come technologically and where we are headed And yet, when you think about it the vast majority what we eat, right now, was originally a seed in the ground, a seed that is the descendant of thousands of other seeds How close we really are to where we started from.


  10. says:

    No, it s not comprehensive as the intro states, it selectively covers pivotal intersections.Yes, it does indeed talk about slavery.No, though it was published in 2009, much of it was clearly written a decade or earlier, with only some new information.Some interpretations conclusions are problematic, a few are just wrong.Mostly it s engaging, interesting, but insufficient 3.5 stars because I m glad I read it and do recommend it to those of you interested, but rounded down because it s just not all that valuable.One illuminating data point Ireland, where the population increased from around 500,000 in 1660 to 9 million in 1840 something that would not have been possible without the potato I don t imagine I ll read by the author but I will investigate.


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An Edible History of Humanitycharacters An Edible History of Humanity, audiobook An Edible History of Humanity, files book An Edible History of Humanity, today An Edible History of Humanity, An Edible History of Humanity 9ee87 Throughout History, Food Has Acted As A Catalyst Of Social Change, Political Organization, Geopolitical Competition, Industrial Development, Military Conflict, And Economic Expansion An Edible History Of Humanity Is A Pithy, Entertaining Account Of How A Series Of Changes Caused, Enabled, Or Influenced By Food Has Helped To Shape And Transform Societies Around The World The First Civilizations Were Built On Barley And Wheat In The Near East, Millet And Rice In Asia, And Corn And Potatoes In The Americas Why Farming Created A Strictly Ordered Social Hierarchy In Contrast To The Loose Egalitarianism Of Hunter Gatherers Is, As Tom Standage Reveals, As Interesting As The Details Of The Complex Cultures That Emerged, Eventually Interconnected By Commerce Trade In Exotic Spices In Particular Spawned The Age Of Exploration And The Colonization Of The New World Food S Influence Over The Course Of History Has Been Just As Prevalent In Modern Times In The Late Eighteenth Century, Britain S Solution To Food Shortages Was To Industrialize And Import Food Rather Than Grow It Food Helped To Determine The Outcome Of Wars Napoleon S Rise And Fall Was Intimately Connected With His Ability To Feed His Vast Armies In The Twentieth Century, Communist Leaders Employed Food As An Ideological Weapon, Resulting In The Death By Starvation Of Millions In The Soviet Union And China And Today The Foods We Choose In The Supermarket Connect Us To Global Debates About Trade, Development, The Environment, And The Adoption Of New Technologies Encompassing Many Fields, From Genetics And Archaeology To Anthropology And Economics And Invoking Food As A Special Form Of Technology An Edible History Of Humanity Is A Fully Satisfying Discourse On The Sweep Of Human History


About the Author: Tom Standage

Tom Standage is a journalist and author from England A graduate of Oxford University, he has worked as a science and technology writer for The Guardian, as the business editor at The Economist, has been published in Wired, The New York Times, and The Daily Telegraph, and has published five books, including The Victorian Internet 1 2 This book explores the historical development of the telegrap