Empires of Food

Empires of Food

Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Baker & Taylor
Chronicles a 12,000-year history of the role of food in societies and people's everyday lives--arguing that food crises are cyclical, and that we may be in one now--and offers a view of what the future may hold.

Blackwell Publishing
We are what we eat: this aphorism contains a profound truth about civilization, one that has played out on the world historical stage over many millennia of human endeavor.

Using the colorful diaries of a sixteenth-century merchant as a narrative guide, Empires of Food vividly chronicles the fate of people and societies for the past twelve thousand years through the foods they grew, hunted, traded, and ate—and gives us fascinating, and devastating, insights into what to expect in years to come. In energetic prose, agricultural expert Evan D. G. Fraser and journalist Andrew Rimas tell gripping stories that capture the flavor of places as disparate as ancient Mesopotamia and imperial Britain, taking us from the first city in the once-thriving Fertile Crescent to today’s overworked breadbaskets and rice bowls in the United States and China, showing just what food has meant to humanity.

Cities, culture, art, government, and religion are founded on the creation and exchange of food surpluses, complex societies built by shipping corn and wheat and rice up rivers and into the stewpots of history’s generations. But eventually, inevitably, the crops fail, the fields erode, or the temperature drops, and the center of power shifts. Cultures descend into dark ages of poverty, famine, and war. It happened at the end of the Roman Empire, when slave plantations overworked Europe’s and Egypt’s soil and drained its vigor. It happened to the Mayans, who abandoned their great cities during centuries of drought. It happened in the fourteenth century, when medieval societies crashed in famine and plague, and again in the nineteenth century, when catastrophic colonial schemes plunged half the world into a poverty from which it has never recovered. And today, even though we live in an age of astounding agricultural productivity and genetically modified crops, our food supplies are once again in peril.

Empires of Food
brilliantly recounts the history of cyclic consumption, but it is also the story of the future; of, for example, how a shrimp boat hauling up an empty net in the Mekong Delta could spark a riot in the Caribbean. It tells what happens when a culture or nation runs out of food—and shows us the face of the world turned hungry. The authors argue that neither local food movements nor free market economists will stave off the next crash, and they propose their own solutions. A fascinating, fresh history told through the prism of the dining table, Empires of Food offers a grand scope and a provocative analysis of the world today, indispensable in this time of global warming and food crises.

& Taylor

Chronicles the role of food in history and people's everyday lives--arguing that food crises are cyclical, and that one may be happening now--and offers a view of what the future may hold.

Publisher: New York : Free Press, 2010
Edition: 1st Free Press hardcover ed
ISBN: 9781439101896
Characteristics: xiii, 302 p. : map ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Rimas, Andrew


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Jun 22, 2011

I was a bit disappointed in the solutions. It was definitely lacking. At one moment, they are dissing slow food, local food and organic food as not being able to meet the challenge, then they endorse slow food and "glocal" food.
I won't be buying 'concentrated' orange juice anymore - lots of pesticides, plus the cook it into a slurry reducing the nutritional point.


Add a Summary

Jul 19, 2018

Interesting book that looked at the various empires roman middle ages current and their relation to food and gluttony. The fact of the problem is that we cannot survive a reducaiton in food. The current cheep food era is probably not stable. We nee to pay the real cost of food and have a sustainable system. We cannot grow everything locally because of taste (avocados don't grow up north) but then we also need the food safety that comes with a global system. though farmers and workers need to get a fair wage for their work.

Integrating Interesting book.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Subject Headings


Find it at BPL

To Top