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The Taste of War: World War Two and the Battle for Food [Hardcover]

Lizzie Collingham
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

27 Jan 2011

Food, and in particular the lack of it, was central to the experience of the Second World War. In this richly detailed and engaging history, Lizzie Collingham establishes how control of food and its production is crucial to total war. How were the imperial ambitions of Germany and Japan - ambitions which sowed the seeds of war - informed by a desire for self-sufficiency in food production? How was the outcome of the war affected by the decisions that the Allies and the Axis took over how to feed their troops? And how did the distinctive ideologies of the different combatant countries determine their attitudes towards those they had to feed?

Tracing the interaction between food and strategy, on both the military and home fronts, this wide-ranging, gripping and dazzlingly original account demonstrates how the issue of access to food was a driving force within Nazi policy and contributed to the decision to murder hundreds of thousands of 'useless eaters' in Europe. Focusing on both the winners and losers in the battle for food, this book brings to light the striking fact that war-related hunger and famine was not only caused by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, but was also the result of Allied mismanagement and neglect, particularly in India, Africa and China.

American dominance both during and after the war was not only a result of the United States' immense industrial production but also of its abundance of food. This book traces the establishment of a global pattern of food production and distribution and shows how the war subsequently promoted the pervasive influence of American food habits and tastes in the post-war world. A work of great scope, The Taste of War connects the broad sweep of history to its intimate impact upon the lives of individuals.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 656 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (27 Jan 2011)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0713999640
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713999648
  • Product Dimensions: 17 x 25.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 346,495 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Creates a whole new and original dimension to the disasters of war. Every page contains a fresh insight ... Powerfully written ... punctuated with brilliant micro-historical accounts, is bound to prove the most thorough and important study of the topic for many years to come (John Cornwell )

A major achievement. The Taste of War presents a wholly novel approach to a conflict which still informs our understanding of the contemporary world. It will stir family memories of privation and endurance wherever it is read. (Professor Chris Bayly, Author Of Forgotten Armies )

Food was so important and so universal an element to the experience of the Second World War that it is extraordinary no one has written its history before. Lizzie Collingham's pioneering book, ranging from the famine lands of Eastern Europe, China and India, via the development of German and Allied policies, to the new plenty of America, is a magnificent example of the new global history-writing at its very best. (Nicholas Stargardt )

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. She has added a whole new layer of understanding not only about the way the war was fought but about the gruelling consequences for tens of millions of non-combatants world-wide when the food chain collapsed. Now, once again, Collingham reminds us, the global food economy is facing a crisis. (Richard Overy Literary Review )

This fascinating calorie-centric history of the greatest conflict in world history is scholarly and well-written but, above all, wholly convincing. 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 Times )

Powerful and important...Like all the best ideas, Collingham's means that a lot of events fall satisfyingly into place. (Diane Purkiss The Independent )

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, hailed by William Dalrymple as 'scholarly, accessible and above all utterly original'. 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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magnificent new perspective on the war 19 Feb 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a truly remarkable and important book that shows how food and nutrition played a crucial part in the 2nd World War, for civilians as well as for the armed forces. It starts by telling us the shocking fact that as many died of starvation (20 million) as from armed conflict. The book brilliantly analyses how this came about and in so doing reveals countless examples of man's inhumanity to man.
Some of the most enduring memories of the 2nd World War for civilians relate to food. I recall how, as a small boy, I was sent out in 1946 to fetch the weekly ration of bread, a single loaf, but managed to drop it (no plastic bags in those days) in a pool of muddy water. My distress was equalled by the fury of my father. My father never put butter or margarine on his toast so I had assumed that he didn't like it; on the contrary, he did this so that his family would have more. Food rationing in Britain did at least ensure that everyone got a reasonable supply of nutrients. In other countries, rationing was used as a weapon and as a tool to control the population. In 1942 Göring told leaders of the occupied countries "The Führer repeatedly said, and I repeat after him, if anyone has to go hungry, it shall not be the Germans but other peoples." Below the normal rationing system, a second tier of food allocation operated for non-Aryans. From 1939, Jews were charged an extra 10% for food and were only allowed to shop after 4 p.m., when most food shops had run out of stocks. By 1942, Jews were not allowed to buy meat, eggs, or milk. A similar starvation policy was applied to the mentally ill and disabled living in institutions, particularly to children. But these policies did not work when applied to people who were expected to work for German industry. The 6.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Maciej TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very impressive, very well researched and very well written book, describing the World War II from a perspective very little treated. Although quite familiar with this period of history, I nevertheless learned a lot and saw many things I knew in a completely new light.

Ms Collingham described in her book the policies of production, distribution and consumption of food from 1939 to 1945 in five main fighting powers: United States, United Kingdom, Soviet Union, Third Reich and Japan. Her writing is excellent and this book is as easy to read as if it was a novel. She describes with great precision the deadly "hunger exportation" to the East by the Third Reich in order to feed German population and the huge armed forces. Even more incredible chapter is devoted to Japan, whose leaders didn't hesitate to risk the starvation of their own soldiers in the most distant campaigns (Burma, New Guinea). Hunger in Soviet Union is also described thanks to the effort of research, including sources known since long time ago, but left untreated. Finally, the much more succesful approach of the British and especially the war time boom of farming in United States bring some light in this otherwise extremely shocking and dark story.

Other than the amount of new information I was particularly impressed by the care for details, including the writing of names of people and towns. Being Polish, I couldn't help but notice that in most British and American publications names in Polish are almost always misspelled, even if they are not particularly difficult. In this book, when areas in Nazi occupied Poland are described, I couldn't find even one single error, not even when the good town of Szczebrzeszyn was mentioned - and with this name even we Poles have a lot of trouble...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whole new perspective 19 Jun 2012
This is a brief review to say that the other reviewers have got it so right. This book adds a new perspective, it describes and analysis a very important but (in popular history books anyway)a neglected area. It is well written, wonderfully researched and deftly handled.
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