- Explore more great deals on thousands of titles in our Deals in Books store.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.
Empires of Food: Feast, Famine, and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations Hardcover – Bargain Price, June 15, 2010
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Special Offers and Product Promotions
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"With a flavor of Jared Diamond, Empires of Food thoughtfully weaves the religion, military history, and science into a historical arc of how food undergirds civilization's rise and fall. Sprinkling discussions of monks and bird guano in with the Roman Empire and colonization, the book elucidates the inherent instability of how our current food infrastructure has evolved and will make you rethink how you eat."
--Jennifer 8. Lee, author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles
"Evan Fraser and Andrew Rimas vividly recreate centuries of spice-filled ships and grain silos to show that while the pen and the gun may be the visible tools of diplomacy, the knife and fork are often the true instruments of human change. Their unsentimental march through our history and into the future reaches a conclusion that is both inspiring and unnerving: civilization is what we eat."
--Sasha Issenberg, author of The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy
"Empires of Food deals with a subject of grave importance and profound implications for the political economy of the world. Although the subject is serious, it is written in a compelling and readable style. While not pedantic or ponderous in any way, it is of impressive academic rigor. This book needs to be read and thoughtfully considered by policy-makers and citizens everywhere. And if you enjoy lunch, don't fail to read it!"
--John Manley, former Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
"With a breathtaking sweep, Empires of Food takes us on a rollicking culinary journey through the ecological history of civilization. The result is a rare treat: hard-hitting analysis cooked to read like a captivating novel. For pure pleasure or a deeper understanding of why civilizations rise and fall, it's a perfect choice for any curious mind."
--Peter Dauvergne, Professor and Canada Research Chair at the University of British Columbia, author of The Shadows of Consumption
"This isn't just first class scholarship, it's energetic writing. Fraser and Rimas have a knack for the little detail that unveils the big thought. Empires of Food is a must-read for anyone who wants to know why every night a billion people got to bed obese and another billion go to bed hungry."
--George Alagiah, author of A Passage To Africa and A Home From Home
"Empires of Food is a panoramic and prescient book which presents the challenges that civilizations have faced with agricultural production and societal fashions for food. The authors approach the issue with refreshing pragmatism and urge us to move towards a "glocal" approach to consumption norms. Their compelling narrative recognizes the value of efficient global food systems while also appreciating the importance of local connections to reduce ecological impacts. Such a vision for our palates holds much promise in balancing the debate on food ethics and sustainable development."
--Saleem H. Ali, author of Treasures of the Earth: Need, Greed and a Sustainable Future
“In offering a compelling portrait of the interplay between imperial expansion and food systems across the millennia, Empires of Food lays before us the fragility of a 21st century food system beset by climate change, rising fuel costs and a shrinking agricultural frontier and wonders whether, like the empires of the past, we will sustain a delusion of a superabundance as we careen toward a world of famine and insecurity or whether we will we find the wisdom and the means to avert catastrophe.”
--Raymond C. Offenheiser, President, Oxfam America
"Forget the old stages of human history, the familiar stone, bronze, iron age sequence: University of Guelph geographer Fraser and journalist co-author Rimas make a convincing case that food—or rather, food surpluses—best explain the rise and fall of civilizations. If cultures produce more than farmers eat, and find a way to store, transport and exchange that extra, then urban centres can flourish. Trouble is, food empires have always, so far, grown to the limits of their carrying capacity, hanging on precariously until the weather changes or pests strike, and the whole thing collapses. It’s happened everywhere, as Fraser and Rimas demonstrate in their entertaining tour of past disasters. And maybe it’s happening again: in five of the past 10 years the world has eaten more than it has produced, causing us to draw down on our grain stocks. There may yet be a lot more food to wring out of technological progress; then again, there may not be." --Mclean's
"This is a book with a big thesis and panorama. Whether writing about ancient Rome, the Mayans, China, or mediaeval Europe, 19th century Britain and 20th century USA, the authors draw us inexorably to question whether the 21st century globalizing food system is poised to be punished for forgetting the laws of ecology. Fraser and Rimas propose that seemingly impregnable societies can falter and fail if they ignore the sustainability of their food supplies." --Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University, London
If you’re the author, publisher, or rights holder of this book, let ACX help you produce the audiobook.Learn more.
Top Customer Reviews
- Apparently the population of Europe declined by half from 200 AD to 600 AD because of food. Um, possibly enormous civil wars, political collapse and the eruption of a plague that was as bad as the bubonic? I'm not even sure though who on earth was counting the population of Europe in 600 AD. In the same sentence we're told the city of Rome's population halved from 300 to 400 - um, yes, because Constantinople was founded as the new capital.
- Hideous, schoolboy factual inaccuracies, such as "when Diocletian split the Empire in two, Constantinople sucked the food supply East" - um, Constantinople was founded decades after Diocletian died. Seriously.
- Wilful distortion of dates: we're told in one sentence that the monastic food system had resulted in a surge of population "by the tenth century" which resulted (same para, no clarification of dates) in "universities being founded in oxford, etc.". You wouldn't know that about 300 years separated the tenth century and the foundation of universities. In the same section, they say that "Europe entered into hundreds of years of inflation" - they don't specify a starting date for this, but they seem to be referring to about 1300 or so. A few paragraphs later they mention that famine and disease caused prices to plummet by the second half of the 14th century. I mean, come on.
- The whole section on Mesopotamia seems to have been made up by the authors. No really. Their references in that section are thin, light and outdated, not to mention the fact that they got Sumer and Akkadia mixed up (this is like confusing England and France, or worse).Read more ›
The book didn't provide any easy answers (surprise!), but I do feel like I learned more about the context of our food system, and it doesn't seem quite so overwhelming, which is kind of strange because the solutions proposed are a bit more macro in scale than the other books I've read recently but somehow it seems doable. If you don't mind a bit of historical detail, it's a great book to help you think through the systems theory of our "food empire" and puts into perspective the threats that everyone keeps talking about. It also provides great motivation for eating local.
disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy from the publisher. I was not obligated to do a review nor did it influence my opinions.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love reading about food and I voraciously consume copious amounts of food related information. I also like reading about history. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Reviewer XYZ
Yes - the historical inaccuracies should be corrected; both locations & dates improved in a reprint edition, but for those considering whether to buy or not, I highly recommend... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Julie Scott
I was loath to put this book down once I started it. It held my interest like a well-crafted novel would- for the most part. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Laurie A. Brown
This book begins with the Three Gorges Dam in China. So you’ll learn how China got/gets their food. You’ll learn of the three functions of the food empire: surplus,... Read morePublished on March 19, 2014 by Dottie Randazzo
Loved the book start to finish. Should be interesting for anybody who eats; makes one appreciate the complex web of interactions between the farm gate and the plate.Published on November 17, 2012 by pieter kroon
A frustrating book to read. The writers couldn't decide what sort of book to write. A history book with a grand vision of how civilisations grow and fall to the rhythm of their... Read morePublished on September 27, 2012 by Tony O'Brien
I'm sure much research went into this book, and it is filled with interesting tid-bits of information, but as a whole, it is incoherent and inconsistent. Read morePublished on July 23, 2012 by Mitchyde
"About our food empire, the doomsayers will continue to grumble while the optimists put their faith in technology or God. The pessimists at least have the backing of history. Read morePublished on November 12, 2011 by Paul Tognetti
This book wasn't bad, but it was not what I anticipated. Based on the title and reviews I read prior to picking it up I was expecting something more along the lines of Guns, Germs,... Read morePublished on October 25, 2011 by Burgundy Damsel