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Professor Rebecca Earle

Today's Potato Quote:

‘All [Indira Gandhi] wanted was reassurance about the photo, yet she felt obliged to launch into a monologue: ‘What the women in the village need is cheaper potatoes. I say to my people, “If the women in the villages don’t get cheaper potatoes, how are they going to live?”’


Bruce Chatwin, ‘On the Road With Mrs. G’ (1978).


For more potato quotes click here.

Contact Details

Room 3.68, third floor, Faculty of Arts Building, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL

Telephone: 024 765 23466 (outside UK: 44 24 765 23466)


personal website:

Office Hours (during term-time)

My office hours are Mondays 10.00-11:00 and Wednesdays 11:00-12:00.

You can email me to arrange a meeting during these times. We can meet in person or on teams, as you prefer.

You can also email me to arrange a meeting at a different time.

Academic Profile
Ph.D 1994 University of Warwick, Department of History
M.A. 1990 University of Warwick, Department of History
M.Sc. 1987 University of Warwick, Mathematics Institute

B.A. 1986 Bryn Mawr College (major in Mathematics, minors in German and History of Art)

Research Interests
I am a historian of food. I have also written about the cultural history of Spanish America and early modern Europe. I am interested in how ordinary, every-day activities such as eating or dressing shape how we think about the world and how others view us.
My early work was rooted in a very specific part of the world (southern Colombia). These days I tend to study the movement of ideas and practices across larger geographies.
My first book, Spain and the Independence of Colombia, tried to explain the collapse of Spanish colonialism in early nineteenth-century Colombia. Subsequent work took on ampler time-spans and broader geographies. My second monograph, The Return of the Native, offered a hemispheric interpretation of elite nationalism in post-colonial Spanish America, based on both written texts and also visual and material culture. It won the Conference on Latin American History's Bolton-Johnson Prize Honorable Mention. My third book, The Body of the Conquistador, examined the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, again from a broadly hemispheric perspective. It explored how food, and eating, shaped the experience of colonialism in Spanish America. It won the Conference on Latin American History's Bolton-Johnson Prize.
My most recent book is Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato. It offers a a global history of the potato, and grew out of my interest in the cultural significance of food. Potatoes originated in the South American Andes, but they are now ubiquitous in virtually all parts of the world. I'm interested in the potato's success as a global food, and also in its spread in eighteenth-century Europe in particular. During Europe's eighteenth century food became central to the exercise of political power. Thinking about potatoes is thus a way of understanding the dramatic changes in ideas about populations, political economy and the state ushered in by the Enlightenment. You can listen to me discuss these ideas here.

I have also written about clothing, letter-writing, and a range of other topics including the distinctive Spanish American pictorial genre known as 'casta painting'. An example appears below. My article 'The Pleasures of Taxonomy' (William and Mary Quarterly73:3, July 2016) situates these paintings in the sentimental world of the colonial romance, as well as in the debates about human nature and mankind that typified eighteenth-century enlightened science. Delightfully, that article won two prizes!


José de Paez, De Español, y Negra, Produce Mulato

Curriculum Vitae

Earle CV

Selected Publications


Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 2020).

Potato, Object Lessons, Bloosmbury (London, 2019)

The Body of the Conquistador: Food, Race and the Colonial Experience in Spanish America, 1492-1700, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 2012). Winner of the Conference on Latin America History 2013 Bolton-Johnson Prize.

The Return of the Native: Indians and Mythmaking in Spanish America, 1810-1930, Duke University Press (Durham, 2008). Winner of the Conference on Latin American History's 2008 Bolton-Johnson Prize Honorable Mention.

Spain and the Independence of Colombia, University of Exeter Press (Exeter, 2000). Spanish Translation: España y la independencia de Colombia, Banco de la República (Bogotá, 2014).

Edited Collections and Special Editions

Edited Dossier: ‘European Cuisine and the Columbian Exchange’, Food and History, vol. 7:1 (2010).

Rumours of War: Civil Conflict in Nineteenth Century Latin America , University of London/Institute of Latin American Studies (London, 2000).

Epistolary Selves: Letters and Letter-Writers, 1600-1945 , Ashgate Press (Aldershot, 1999).


‘Potatoes, Population and States’, Early American Studies 19:2 (2021), special issue: ‘Empowering Appetites: The Political Economy and Culture of Food in the Early Atlantic World’, eds. Jennifer Anderson and Anya Zilberstein, 393-417.

‘Potatoes and the Pursuit of Happiness’, Gastronomica 19:1 (2019), 14-32. Sophie Coe Prize 2020 Commendation.

‘The Political Economy of Nutrition in the Eighteenth Century’, Past & Present 242 (2019), 79-117.

‘Potatoes and the Hispanic Enlightenment’, The Americas 75:4 (2018), 639-60.

Rebecca Earle, 'Promoting Potatoes in Eighteenth-Century Europe', Eighteenth-Century Studies 51:2 (2017).

‘Food, Colonialism and the Quantum of Happiness’, History Workshop Journal 84 (2017).

‘The Pleasures of Taxonomy: Casta Paintings, Classification and Colonialism’, William & Mary Quarterly 73:3 (2016). Winner of the William and Mary Quarterly's 2018 Douglass Adair Award and the William and Mary Quarterly's 2017 Lester J. Cappon Prize.

‘European Cuisine and the Columbian Exchange: Introduction’, Food and History, vol. 7:1 (2010).

‘‘If You Eat Their Food . . .’: Diets and Bodies in Early Colonial Spanish America’, American Historical Review, vol. 115:3 (2010). Winner of the Agricultural History Society's 2011 Wayne D. Rasmussen Award.

‘Algunos Pensamientos sobre “el indio borracho” en el imaginario criollo’, Revista de Estudios Sociales (Colombia), vol. 29 (2008).

'Sobre Héroes y Tumbas: National Symbols in Nineteenth-Century Spanish America', Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 85:3 (2005).

‘Padres de la Patria and the Ancestral Past: Celebrations of Independence in Nineteenth-Century Spanish America’, Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 34:4 (2002).

‘‘Two Pairs of Pink Satin Shoes!!’: Clothing, Race and Identity in the Americas, 17th-19th Centuries’, History Workshop Journal, issue 52 (2001).

‘Creole Patriotism and the Myth of the Loyal Indian’, Past & Present, vol. 172 (2001).

‘Information and Disinformation in Late Colonial New Granada’, The Americas, vol. 54:2 (1997).

‘A Grave for Europeans?’: Disease, Death, and the Spanish-American Revolutions’, War in History, vol. 3:2 (1996).

‘Indian Rebellion and Bourbon Reform in New Granada: Riots in Pasto, 1780-1800’, Hispanic American Historical Review, vol. 73:1 (1993).

Book Chapters

‘Spaniards, Cannibals and the Eucharist’, To Feast on Us as their Prey: Cannibalism in the Early Modern Atlantic, ed. Rachel Herrmann, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, 2019), 81-96. Volume awarded the Association for the Study of Food and Society’s 2020 Book Award.

‘Sumptuary Laws in the Early Modern Hispanic World’, The Right to Dress: Sumptuary Legislation in Comparative and Global Perspective, eds. Giorgio Riello and Ulinka Rublack, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, 2019), 325-45.

‘Chocolate in the Historical Imagination’, Luxury and the Ethics of Greed in Early Modern Italy, eds. Catherine Kovesi and Lino Pertile, Brepols (Turnhout, 2018), 95-118.

‘Climate, Travel and Colonialism in the Early Modern World’, Governing the Environment in the Early Modern World: Theory and Practice, eds. Sara Miglietti and John Morgan, Routledge (Abingdon, 2017).

‘Indians and Drunkenness in Spanish America’, Cultures of Intoxication, ed. Phil Withington and Angela McShane, Past & Present Supplement 9, Oxford University Press (Oxford, 2014).

‘Diet, Travel and Colonialism in the Early Modern World’, Global Goods and the Spanish Empire, 1492-1824. Circulation, Resistance and Diversity, eds. Bethany Aram and Bartolomé Yun-Casalilla, Palgrave Macmillan (Basingstoke 2014).

‘The Columbian Exchange’, The Oxford Handbook of Food History, ed. Jeffrey Pilcher, Oxford University Press (Oxford, 2012).

‘La iconografía de la independencia en Cartagena y la Nueva Granada’, Cartagena de Indias en la Independencia, eds. Haroldo Calvo Stevenson and Adolfo Meisel Roca, Banco de la República (Cartagena, 2011).

‘The French Revolution in the Spanish American Imagination, 1789-1830’, War, Empire and Slavery, 1770-1830, eds. Richard Bessel, Nick Guyatt and Jane Rendall, Palgrave (London, 2010).

‘Clothing and Ethnicity in Colonial Spanish America’, The Fashion History Reader: Global Perspectives, eds. Giorgio Riello and Peter McNeill, Routledge (London, 2010).

‘Nationalism and National Costume in Spanish America’, The Politics of Dress in Asia and the Americas, eds. Mina Roces and Louise Edwards, Sussex Academic Press (Eastbourne, 2007).

‘Consumption and Excess in Colonial and Early-Independent Spanish America’, Imported Modernity in Post-Colonial State-Formation: The Appropriation of Political, Educational and Cultural Models in Nineteenth-Century Latin America, eds. Marcelo Caruso and Eugenia Roldán Vera, Peter Lang (Frankfurt am Main, 2007).

'Monumentos y museos: La nacionalización del pasado precolombino en la Hispanoamerica decimonónica', Galerias del progreso: museos, exposiciones y cultura visual en America Latina, eds. Beatriz Gonzalez Stephan and Jens Andermann, Beatriz Viterbo Editora : Colección Estudios Culturales (Buenos Aires, 2006).

‘Luxury, Clothing and Race in Colonial Spanish America’, Luxury in the Eighteenth Century: Debates, Desires and Delectable Goods, eds. Maxine Berg and Elizabeth Eger, Palgrave (London, 2003).

‘The Role of Print in the Spanish-American Wars of Independence’, The Political Power of the Word, ed. Ivan Jaksic, University of London/Institute of Latin American Studies (London, 2002).

‘Rape and the Anxious Republic. Revolutionary Colombia, 1810-1830’, Hidden Histories of Gender and the State in Latin America , eds. Maxine Molyneux and Elizabeth Dore, Duke University Press (Durham, 2000).

Order Simple Scoff: The Anniversary Edition

Recent and Current Research Topics Supervised

I am happy to consider postgraduate supervisions on topics concerned with the cultural history of food, as well as the history of colonial and nineteenth-century Spanish America. Here are some of the topics and students I have supervised, co-supervised and advised:

Doctoral Students

María Reyes Baztán, 'A Global History of Basque Nationalism' (co-supervised with Kirsty Hooper, Hispanic Studies)

Valentina Tommasetti, 'Naked and Shameless: Shame and its Embodiment in Early Modern European Art'.

Holly Winter, 'Militaristic Masculinity, Material Culture and the Armies in India, 1799-1900' (co-supervised with Maxine Berg, History)

Hannah Dennett, '“Forgotten Foundlings”: Black Lives and the Eighteenth-Century Foundling Hospital' (Co-supervised with Maxine Berg, History).

José-Ricardo Aguilar González, 'Food culture in sixteenth-century Relaciones geograficas of the New Spain'.

Camilo Uribe, 'The Hunting of the Odontoglossum Crispum: Colombian Orchids in the Nineteenth Century British “Orchid Craze”'.

Suzanne Bardgett 'Leading the creation of the IWM’s Holocaust Exhibition and other exhibitions on genocide' (PhD by publication, co-supervised with Carolyn Steedman, History)


Desiree Arbo, 'The uses of Jesuit Classical Learning in the Rio de la Plata, c. 1750-1815' (co-supervised with Andrew Laird, Classics)

Andrea Cadelo, 'Luxury, Sensibility, Climate and Taste in the Eighteenth-Century Worldwide Racialisation of Difference'.

Helen Cowie, 'Naturalistas sin Fronteras': Conquering Nature in the Spanish Empire (1750-1850)' (co-supervised with Anthony McFarlane, History)

María Estrada Fuentes, 'Performative Reintegration: Ex-combatants' Transitions Towards Civilian Identities in Colombia' (co-supervised with Silvija Jestrovic, Theatre Studies)

Marcos Estrada, 'Everyday Practices of Transnational Living: Making Sense of Brasiguaio Identities' (co-supervised with Anton Popov, Sociology, Aston University)

Rebecca Griffin, 'Marriage and Courtship in Slave Culture in Antebellum North Carolina' (co-supervised with Cecily Jones, Sociology)

Sergio Lussana, 'Band of Brothers: Enslaved Men of the Antebellum South' (co-supervised with Tim Lockley, History)

Rebecca Noble, 'Madness and Governance: Creating ‘Docile Cassals’ in Bourbon Mexico' (co-supervised with Hilary Marland, History)

Deborah Toner, ''What's Wrong with a Little Drinking?' Alcohol and Nation-Building in Nineteenth-Century Mexican Fiction'.

Cecilia Tossounian, 'The Body Beautiful and the Beauty of Nation: Representing Gender and Modernity (Buenos Aires 1918-1940)' (co-supervised wtih the European University Institute, Florence)

Anastasia Styliano, 'Martyrs' Blood in Reformation England' (co-supervised with Peter Marshall, History)

MA Students

Sergio Lussana, 'Band of Brothers: Enslaved African-American Masculinity in the Antebellum United States'

Kim Patrick, 'Why a Million Men Marched: An Analysis of Politics, Identity and the Million Man March'

Emma Rhodes-Brown, '"Know First Who You Are, Then Deck Yourself Out Accordingly": Dress and Adornment As a Form of Expression under Slavery in the American South'

Lewis Smith, 'Eating Indigène: Food, Hunger and (Post)-Colonial Governance in France and North Africa 1830-2011'

Hannah Stephenson, 'Symbolising Slavery: The Narrative of Sojourner Truth and the Female Slave Experience'

Deborah Toner, 'Maize, Alcohol and Cultural Identity in Colonial Mexico'

Christopher Zacharia, 'Drool Britannia: Cookbooks, the Imagined Community and Identity in Contemporary Britain'


Rebecca Earle

bread cover jpg

Earle book cover

For information about the Warwick-Essex-Los Andes Leverhulme Trust Academic Collaboration International Research Network visit

Text and Image in 19th-Century Spanish America