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The Hungry Empire

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'This is a wholly pleasing book, which offers a tasty side dish to anyone exploring the narrative history of the British Empire', Max Hastings, Sunday Times The glamorous daughter of an African chief shares a pineapple with a slave tradera Surveyors in British Columbia eat tinned Australian rabbita Diamond prospectors in Guyana prepare an iguana currya In twenty meals The Hungry Empire tells the story of how the British created a global network of commerce and trade in foodstuffs that moved people and plants from one continent to another, re-shaping landscapes and culinary tastes. To be British was to eat the world.The Empire allowed Britain to harness the globe's edible resources from cod fish and salt beef to spices, tea and sugar. By the twentieth century the wheat to make the working man's loaf of bread was supplied by Canada and his Sunday leg of lamb had been fattened on New Zealand's grasslands. Lizzie Collingham takes us on a wide-ranging culinary journey, charting the rise of sugar to its dominant position in our diets and locating the origins of the food industry in the imperial trade in provisions. Her innovative approach brings a fresh perspective to the making of the Empire, uncovering its decisive role in the shaping of the modern diet and revealing how virtually every meal we eat still contains a taste of empire.
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About the Author

Lizzie Collingham taught History at Warwick University and was a Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge before becoming an independent historian. Her books include Curry- A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors and The Taste of War- World War II and the Battle for Food. She is currently an Associate Fellow of Warwick University and the Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Newnham College, Cambridge. She recently completed a project researching the history of the kitchens of the Indian President's palace and regularly lectures on a gastronomic tour of Kerala. She works in a garden shed near Cambridge.


"An energetic and refreshing account of a little considered aspect of British history ... Collingham skillfully provides a full account of complex, even chaotic international connections ... It's hard to think of a more ingenious way of treating imperial history... The range is dazzling... The Hungry Empire, it should be clear, is supported by meticulous historical research... This book's treatment of food in the empire is innovative and exciting; to bring such vibrancy to an old topic is a remarkable achievement" -- Kwasi Kwarteng * Guardian * "Joyously delicious...In her original and supremely captivating book, [Collingham] has cleverly recreated the fine details of some 20 meals, consumed for four and a half centuries in a variety of homes and ships and tented encampments far from the motherland...In British terms, she is Henry Mayhew and Mass-Observation rolled into one-a stellar observer of the day-to-day and the mundane, a social historian of extraordinary talent" * New York Times Book Review * "One of the charms of this book is that Collingham includes recipes and menus from many periods and colonies ... This is a wholly pleasing book, which offers a tasty side dish to anyone exploring the narrative history of the British Empire ... it is droll to be reminded how many sought merely a square meal." -- Max Hastings * Sunday Times * "Lizzie Collingham's fascinating new book, The Hungry Empire, demonstrates that a cup of tea is never just a cup of tea - it is a history of trade, exchange, land-grab, agricultural innovation and economic change... This is a marvellously wide-ranging and readable book, stuffed with engaging details and startling connections" -- Lucy Lethbridge * Financial Times * "Revelatory ... The Hungry Empire is an original and thought-provoking book and for all the shocking accounts of the consequences of British appetites, a highly entertaining one." -- Daisy Goodwin * The Times * "The Hungry Empire is impressively scholarly... it is also fascinating. And although Collingham does not flinch from the cruelties and brutalities of empire, she refrains from the self-congratulatory finger-wagging indulged in by some modern historians" -- Lewis Jones * Daily Telegraph * "Some of the most revelatory anecdotes are the funniest... As with all her work, Collingham has read most of what matters and has selected from it with a lively eye... She can unwind suggestive strands of evidence to lead readers through the labyrinth... Her brisk narrative of the origins of IPA is exemplary" -- Felipe Fernandez-Armesto * Literary Review * "Fascinating... Collingham's decision to organize her enormously ambitious research around a series of intimate family meals is a good one. Material that would otherwise be numbingly abstract is made profoundly personal... You will certainly enjoy the journey" -- Kathryn Hughes * Mail on Sunday * "[Lizzie Collingham is] one of the best, most readable practitioners of the dynamic field of food history." -- Maya Jasanoff * The Times Literary Supplement * "This ingeniously constructed history shows that what we think of as personal appetites have largely been constructed by the machinations of empire. The Hungry Empire uses vivid snapshots of meals to tell the story of how Britain's quest for food drove its imperial ambitions. Collingham takes the reader on a powerful journey ... Like Sidney Mintz or Margaret Visser, Collingham is a historian whose writing about food informs larger stories about human existence: about conflict and culture, about economics and politics. I was dazzled by Collingham's writing and her book also left me very hungry." -- Bee Wilson, author of FIRST BITE

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