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Harry G West

Centre for Rural Policy Research Seminar Series

War and Cheese

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Treatments of the relationship between war and food have often emphasized the effects of food upon war, which may certainly be profound. Such perspectives, however, over-simplify the dynamic between war and food, suggesting for example that food is a factor in war that can and should be managed by wartime leaders to desired effects. Drawing on Tolstoy’s view of war as the sum of a multitude of infinitesimal units of activity, I suggest the relationship between war and food is much more complex. Actors in wartime are driven by myriad motives, and waging war is not their only end. In such contexts, food itself may be the focus of some actions, and in any case, food may be as profoundly shaped by war as war is shaped by food. This paper considers the complex relationship between food and war through comparative historical examination on one foodstuff, namely cheese. It suggests that future scholarship see food and war as mutually constitutive, and view wartime transformations of food and foodways as historically significant in their own right.


Byrne House