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The Taste of War: World War II and the Battle for Food Hardcover – March 29, 2012
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“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” — THE GUARDIAN (UK)
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.
Top customer reviews
The book is very successful at taking the scattered facts that are widely known about WWII, and placing them them into an interesting, coherent narrative -- a story in which the food supply was both the basis of and the outcome of power.
This is certainly not the book for you, if you seek a full accounting of the important battles. It is also not the book for if you prefer your war stories as simplistic myths about heroism. But read the book, and you will never think of lend lease the same way again... nor the holocaust... nor rationing... nor military rations... nor Hitler's attack on the USSR... nor the Marshall Plan... nor the use of the atomic bombs... nor our contemporary idea of good nutrition.
Further, whether you are a liberal or a conservative, you will find yourself nodding knowingly at certain passages, reinforced in your worldview... only to find that same worldview undermined a few pages later. You will also come away with a new understanding of why America and western Europe came out of the war with contrasting sensibilities regarding the proper role of government.
All in all, this is the best history book I have read in years.
If you are like me, you've read countless biographies about the persons behind WWII, and countless more about the battles. If you are ready for a wholly new twist, read about the role that the quest for food played in WWII. This exhaustively researched and well documented history will open your eyes to new motivations for conquest and expansion, and the role which racial identity played in deciding who was to be fed, and who was to be starved.
The lessons are surprisingly current as well. While reading it I couldn't help but think about the United States in the second decade of the 21st Century, and how our supply lines and resources are balanced on the head of a pin. I began thinking "what if this happened here?" What would I do to survive. Could Americans survive a disruption of our fuel supply, which would disrupt our food supply, and ultimately our ambivalence about life. Could we survive long without electrical power, fresh water piped into our homes, and air conditioning (and electric heat).
Nicely written and chock full of facts.