Grains Of War

Rob Lyons reviews Tom Standage’s An Edible History of Humanity. Standage's description of his own work:

The use of food as a weapon or war is timeless, but the large-scale military conflicts of the 18th and 19th centuries elevated it a new level. Food played an important role in determining the outcome of the two wars that defined the United States of America: the Revolutionary War of the 1770-80s and the Civil War of the 1860s.

In Europe, meanwhile, Napoleon’s rise and fall was intimately connected with his ability to feed his vast armies. The mechanisation of warfare in the 20th century meant that for the first time in history, feeding machines with fuel and ammunition became a more important consideration than feeding soldiers. But food then took on a new role, as an ideological weapon, during the Cold War between capitalism and communism, and ultimately helped to determine the outcome of the conflict. And in modern times food has become a battlefield for other issues, including trade, development and globalisation.