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The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food Hardcover – March 29, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“Every now and again a book comes along that transforms our understanding of a subject that had previously seemed so well worn and familiar.  That is the measure of Lizzie Collingham's achievement in this outstanding global account of the role played by food (and its absence) during the Second World War.  It will now be impossible to think of the war in the old way.”
(Richard Overy, LITERARY REVIEW (UK))

“Fascinating…After this book, no historian will be able to write a comprehensive history of the Second World War without putting the multifarious issues of food production and consumption centre stage.”
(Andrew Roberts, FINANCIAL TIMES)

“Lizzie Collingham's book possesses the notable virtue of originality...[She] has gathered many strands to pursue an important theme across a global canvas. She reminds us of the timeless truth that all human and political behaviour is relative.”
(Max Hastings, THE SUNDAY MAIL (UK))

“Powerful and important”
(Diane Purkiss, THE INDEPENDENT (UK))

“Ambitious, compelling, fascinating”

About the Author

Lizzie Collingham is the author of Imperial Bodies: The Physical Experience of the Raj and Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors. Having taught history at Warwick University she became a Research Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge. She is now an independent scholar and writer. She has lived in Australia, France, and Germany and now lives near Cambridge with her husband and small daughter.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; 1St Edition edition (March 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594203296
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594203299
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #749,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gelman on April 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book which examines WW2 through a new and original perspective, namely:the way the various countries have coped with the food crisis which was part of almost everyone of them, with the exception of the US. More than 20 million people died from starvation and malnutrition. The author describes in great detail the Hunger Plan as devised by Herbert Backe in Nazi Germany and whose purpose was to starve the East European countries to death, especially the Ukraine. The ultimate aim of Hitler was to move German families into the Ukraine to farm the land there. Backe had concluded that if the war was to be won, the only way to do it as to feed the entire Nazi army from Russia. This was to be achieved by exterminating "the useless" eaters, among them the Polish Jews. She then describes the impact of food shortages on the populations of Japan and the other Far Eastern countries as well as the British peoples and the way each government managed the crises. More than 60 per cent of the Japanese military deaths were caused by starvation or other diseases linked to malnutrition, while no Allies armies starved to death.The Japanese also exterminated a countless number of Chinese prisoners of war. Churchill said that the only thing he was worried about was the food issue and the U-boat threat which could have endangered the supply of food to Britain.
It is a very well-researched book,supported by new documents, war diaries and war letters. It exhausts this particular angle of this most horrible conflict of the twentieth century or human history. Highly recommended.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Alter Wiener on July 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Being a captive for three years in forced labor and concentration camps in Germany, I saw thousand of co- inmates dying of starvation. In camp Blechammer in Germany, at the working place, I came in contact with prisoners of other nationalities. There, I realized that every Jew was a victim but not every victim was a Jew. I saw many Russian POWs, as well as captives from other nations, dying of starvation, which is a slow and excruciating process. I suffered from constant hunger and witnessed starving co-prisoners begging the guards to shoot them. I couldn't understand why valuable workers, within a war economy desperately short of labor, were being starved.

I had no idea how many people had been victims of starvation during wartime and peacetime in so many different countries in the world as narrated in the TASTE OF WAR. Lizzie Collingham, the author makes the reader aware that food is often an all-consuming preoccupation for many people all over the globe. Ambitions to become agrarian empires drove Germany, as well as Italy and Japan, to wage war and to commit atrocities. Lack of food was a major factor in Germany's defeat in 1917. Hungry soldiers' will to fight dissipated while their horses were dying of hunger. In 1942, Hitler justified his decision to start WWII in order to capture living space, agrarian land to grow food and to achieve autarky. By invading Russia in 1941, Hitler's two evil plans, General Plan and Hunger Plan, called for the annihilation of millions upon millions of Russian, Ukrainians, Jews and others in order to secure ample food for a Grater Germany. In other words, to free up more food for Germans more people needed to be annihilated.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kelly Hock on July 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The Taste of War is one of the most interesting books I've read, about World War II or otherwise. This heartbreaking but important book looks at a very central question to the war, that is often overlooked: What's to eat? In answering this question, The Taste of War explains why battles were fought, why some were lost and some were won, and why the Nazis planned to wipe out millions of people. It taught me that this was not only a war for freedom, it was a war for food.

Well-written and engaging, The Taste of War examines the role of food for each major player in the war, and on both sides. The way that food was handled varied widely, from the well-fed American troops to the hardships of procuring food in the Soviet Union to the starving, self-reliant Japanese troops. I was surprised at just how complex and difficult feeding the troops, and a nation, really is. From farming, which requires not only people to do it, but incentives to give the food to the government rather than to the black market, technology to make it efficient, and a means to transport it, to rationing, to the attitudes of governments towards their own people, the issue of food touched everyone and drove tactical decisions. We get to see, in depth, how Germany, England, China, Japan, the United States, and many other countries felt about food, handled food in their policies and decision-making, procured food, and distributed food. It was a fascinating read from beginning to end.
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