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The global history of the potato explored

In its time, the potato has been called the root of filth, misery and obesity - but is it fair to call it the 'food of the poor'? Professor Rebecca Earle investigates on BBC World Service, The Food Chain in a two-part series. The Food Chain goes to the very roots of the world's most popular vegetable, digging up some new perspectives on its history.

By the 19th century, the potato had firmly taken root in the west, but it was still subject to widespread disdain. The journalist and farmer, William Cobbett said potatoes should be fed to pigs, not people, and that they were the cause of "slovenliness, filth, misery and slavery". The Food Chain speak to food historian Rebecca Earle at the University of Warwick, who explains how despite its reputation, the potato has played an important role in agricultural and economic development. The tuber was perhaps one of the very first products of globalization, and we hear how it became equated with a robust and hardy workforce, and associated with capitalism.

What does the future hold for the potato. Will it ever be able to shake off its unsavoury reputation?

Professor Earle is on at 14:00 minutes, to listen click the image below:


In the second and final episode on the humble spud, The Food Chain meet the people who see the global economic future as being potato powered.

The potato is the world's most produced staple food after rice, wheat and corn - yet historically, it was seen as the root of filth, misery and obesity. In the previous episode we heard how over time it came to be used as a tool of power by the state, to create a healthy and robust workforce. This week, food historian Rebecca Earle, tells us that history is repeating itself in China, which is now the world's biggest producer of potatoes.

Professor Earle is on right from the start to listen click the image below:


Professor Rebecca Earle is currently working on a research project entitled:

The Early Modern Potato: A Global History


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