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Food and Drink History Reading Group

Welcome to Food History Reading Group. This reading group is convened by postgraduate students and Postdoctoral researchers in history department at Warwick. We aim to provide a friendly and inspiring environment to discuss different themes and approaches to food history. We welcome students and scholars from different disciplines to join in our discussion.

We hold sessions once in each month at term times. During each session, one group member will convene the session and lead the discussion. If you want to join in the mailing list, please email

The next event:

Thursday 22 October, 2020

1-2 pm

Venue: Microsoft Teams

Convener: Shrikant Botre

In this session, we will discuss the relationship between gender, class, nation, and the science-ing of food in the modern West. In this session, we would like to talk about how dominant sections of the society interpreted specific foods/beverages to restructure the relations of power in modern times.
The two articles that we will discuss are:
1) Daniel Block (2005), 'Saving Milk Through Masculinity: Public Health Officers and Pure Milk, 1880–1930', Food and Foodways, 13:1-2, pp.115-134.
The article shows how public health agendas of protecting and science-ing milk in the US, functioned as a process of masculinizing milk.
2) Ian Miller (2013), 'A Dangerous Revolutionary Force Amongst Us', Cultural and Social History, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp. 419–438.
This article demonstrates how tea became a medium for the British medical practitioners and non-medical press to superimpose middle- class' projections about social and national decline onto the working-class men and women's everyday alimentary practices.

We look forward to seeing you in our next session. We will use Microsoft Teams to run this reading group for at least this term. Please email to this address for links: Thank you!

Past Event:

Monday 24 February, 2020

3-4 pm

Venue: H1.04

Convener: Serin Quinn

In this session, we will discuss food and identity. We will talk about food as a means of creating national identities, both for one's own nation and as a form of 'othering'.

The first is by Hans Martin Krämer: '“Not Befitting Our Divine Country”: Eating Meat in Japanese Discourses of Self and Other from the Seventeenth Century to the Present', Food and Foodways, vol. 16 (2008). This article discusses the modern and early modern formation of a 'traditional' Japanese cuisine as a form of nation building, involving the exclusion of a history of meat consumption in order to distinguish themselves from China and 'the West'.

The second, 'Bad Bread and the "Outrageous Drunkenness of the Turks": Food and Identity in the Accounts of Early Modern European Travelers to the Ottoman Empire', Journal of World History, vol. 25 (2014), by Eric C. Dursteler, which discusses how Europeans used food practices in order to present Turkish culture as the barbaric 'Other'.

Friday 24th January, 2020

4-5 pm

Venue: H3.45

Convener: Leiyun Ni

In this session, we will discuss gender and the production of knowledge on food and drink in different cultures.

The first one is from historian Sara Pennell, 'Perfecting Practice? Women, Manuscript Recipes and Knowledge in Early Modern England', in Victoria E. Burke and Jonathan Gibson (eds),Early Modem Women's Manuscript Writing(Aldershot,2004). This article examines the particular character of women's culinary knowledge, and the relationship between cookery as a form of practicable knowledge with recipes as its chief medium, and the status of such knowledge in the early modem European culture of experimentation and the 'new' natural and chemical philosophy.

Another piece is from Jin Feng, a professor in literature, ‘The Female Chef and the Nation: Zeng Yi's "Zhongkui lu" (Records from the kitchen)’, Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, Vol. 28, No. 1 (srping, 2016). This article focuses on Zeng Yi(曾懿)(1852-1927), a ‘talented women’(cainü才女) in late Qing and her published cookbook Zhongkui lu(中馈录). It examines the ways in which Zeng Yi used cookbook to mediate between traditional gender norms and Western knowledge in late Qing, when China was under threats from imperial powers. Sadly, there is very limited historical research on Chinese women’s recipe writings. This article is among the very few in English. I hope this article can give you an introduction to gender and culinary knowledge in China.

Digital version of Zhongkui lu(Records from the kitchen):

General Introduction page of Zhongkui Lu /©Harvard Yenching Library

Thursday 21st November, 2019

10-12 am

Venue: F25A - Millburn House

Convener: Ricardo Aguilar-Gonzalez

For this session we will discuss David Letz's "Anthropocentric food webs in the pre-Columbian Americas', in David Lentz (ed.) Imperfect Balance: Landscape Transformations in Pre-Columbian Americas, (New York, 2000), pp. 89-119, and Alfred W. Crosby Jr., ‘New World Foods and Old World Demography’, in Alfred W. Crosby Jr., The Columbian Exchange. Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492, 30thanniversary edition, (Westport Conn., 2003), pp. 130-226.

Ricardo selected these two readings because he would like to bring to the group the discussion about pre-industrial era foodways. Both authors emphasise the importance of biology in the food production, circulation and consumption. Alfred W. Crosby J. was the first to outline the importance of biology in the understanding of social phenomena. His The Columbian Exchange… explores the ecological foundations of social change and adaptation. In ‘New World Foods and Old World demography’ he investigates the American edibles that were exported from XVI to XX centuries, and the consequences that this globalisation of crops brought about for Old World demography.

David Lentz’s study ‘Anthropocentric food webs…’ is largely concerned with one key concept: trophic web (s). According to Lentz, a complex chemical and microbiological connexion occur between animal and plant species that allows the proliferation of crops. In order to obtain key nutrients, domesticated plants, like maize, had a symbiotic relation with weeds and beans. Hence, the text serves to pose questions related to the use of uncultivated plants in crop production and their incorporation to diets; also, it calls for the answer to question of what the role (active/passive) of humankind is in relation with edibles production and consumption, to name a few.

Thank you for all the participants in this first session! We will announce the details of our next session soon.

Depiction of Mayahuel, Central Mexico pre-Hispanic goddess of the maguey plant (Agave mapisaga), and 'pulque' (fermented maguey sap) (In Book of Death, Laud, Bodleian).
Credit to Jack Baker@jackhughbaker

Floating grocery

'Floating grocery' ca.1800-1820
/V&A collections

'Morning Coffee' 1739

François Boucher/ Musée du Louvre

Food shop in India. ca.1870s