Seminar and Agricultural History Series
Friday, December 08, 2017 at 2:30pm to 4:30pm
Building E51, 095
70 MEMORIAL DR, Cambridge, MA 02142
Enclosures, turnips, reforms to the poor laws and the corn laws are well-known tropes of the ‘second’ agricultural revolution of the long eighteenth century, which preceded and crucially enabled the industrial revolution in manufacturing. This talk examines the ways in which those great transformations in the environmental, economic, and social order affected the ways in which diets changed in Britain and across its empire—not just for people but also for the domesticated animals they kept. It focuses in particular on provisioning schemes for feeding large groups of people in institutional settings—hospitals, warships, prisons, orphanages, asylums, and workhouses—that borrowed from two forms of extant practice: the dietary allowances given to plantation slaves and recently developed methods for feeding livestock in confinement. Eighteenth-century debates about provisioning these dependent populations further suggest political and economic forces pushing British officials and reformers to think about how to achieve some aspects of the kind of rationalized, large-scale food system that is usually associated with modern industrial changes in agriculture and food processing. They also point to an enduring sentiment underlying debates about the legitimacy and scope of government food subsidies for the poor.