Foods That Changed History
How Foods Shaped Civilization from the Ancient World to the Present
by Christopher Cumo
June 2015, 451pp, 7x10
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3536-0
$110, £82, 92€, A158
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3537-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Urbanization and industrialization were key to the rise of convenience foods.

Serving students and general readers alike, this encyclopedia addresses the myriad and profound ways foods have shaped the world we inhabit, from prehistory to the present.

Written with the needs of students in mind, Foods That Changed History: How Foods Shaped Civilization from the Ancient World to the Present presents nearly 100 entries on foods that have shaped history—fascinating topics that are rarely addressed in detail in traditional history texts. In learning about foods and their importance, readers will gain valuable insight into other areas such as religious movements, literature, economics, technology, and the human condition itself.

Readers will learn how the potato, for example, changed lives in drastic ways in northern Europe, particularly Ireland; and how the potato famine led to the foundation of the science of plant pathology, which now affects how scientists and governments consider the dangers of genetic uniformity. The entries document how the consumption of tea and spices fostered global exploration, and how citrus fruits led to the prevention of scurvy. This book helps students acquire fundamental information about the role of foods in shaping world history, and it promotes critical thinking about that topic.


  • Overviews the foods that have changed the world from prehistory to the present
  • Gives attention to the relationships between foods and religious movements, such as the connections between fish, bread, and wine and the rise of Christianity
  • Enables readers to grasp the connections between the history of foods and the Columbian Exchange
Christopher Cumo, PhD, is the author of three books, three encyclopedias, and some 500 articles, essays, reviews, and short stories, all in print. He has worked with ABC-CLIO on a number of projects, including the forthcoming The Ongoing Columbian Exchange: Stories of Biological and Economic Transfer in World History. His research interests include the histories of agriculture, particularly plants, and the sciences. Cumo earned his doctorate in history from the University of Akron.


"With broad, easy-to-read coverage, this well-written resource is recommended for high-school students and undergraduates as well as the general public interested in the relationship of the history of food to culture."—Booklist, October 1, 2015

"The text is written in a clear, engaging style with interesting yet relevant anecdotes. . . . Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels."—Choice, April 1, 2016
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