• The Taste of Empire

  • How Britain's Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World
  • By: Lizzie Collingham
  • Narrated by: Jennifer M. Dixon
  • Length: 12 hrs and 3 mins
  • 4.2 out of 5 stars (56 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In The Taste of Empire, acclaimed historian Lizzie Collingham tells the story of how the British Empire's quest for food shaped the modern world. Told through 20 meals over the course of 450 years, from the Far East to the New World, Collingham explains how Africans taught Americans how to grow rice, how the East India Company turned opium into tea, and how Americans became the best-fed people in the world.

In The Taste of Empire, Collingham masterfully shows that only by examining the history of Great Britain's global food system, from 16th-century Newfoundland fisheries to our present-day eating habits, can we fully understand our capitalist economy and its role in making our modern diets.

©2017 Lizzie Collingham (P)2017 Tantor
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

"This is a wholly pleasing book, which offers a tasty side dish to anyone exploring the narrative history of the British Empire." (Max Hastings, Sunday Times [UK])

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Overall really interesting and informative

I definitely enjoyed this book, the research was exhaustive and well planned out. I do agree with other reviews that some things don’t translate well to audio so I had to FF through some sections. I loved the class and social stratification of food through out the empire and the details about the trade routes. This book really hit every point. I did find that the narrator to be droning and I found myself zoning out and not comprehending much. I think I could retain more on a second listen because the tone of voice did fade into the background if I wasn’t really paying attention. It may be beneficial to listen to this book at an accelerated speed.

1 person found this helpful

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Wonderful history with an interesting point of view

In this book you will find fascinating details of the British empire, its colonies, it’s wars, it’s subjects, it’s conquered people and the rest of the world that the empire touched over 450 years. The sun never set on the British empire so largely everyone living has been touched by it. You will learn about fascinating developments in food storage and delivery systems including sea and land transport, salting, drying, canning and refrigeration; new technologies for farming, ranching and processing food which includes turning humans and animals into slaves whether literally or just nearly so. Also how class effected what was eaten and what nutrition was provided. One issue with the audio book was the reading. Some of this might be inherent to the material. A recipe does not easily translate to audio. History can be bland to read. It was difficult to gain traction with the book at my usual 1.5x rate and I had to slow it to normal speed and eventually settled on 1.3x. In general, I am stingy with 5 star ratings so 3 is still a book worth playing.

1 person found this helpful

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Sophomore treatment of people’s lives

Collingham had a very interesting idea. Her thesis was less compelling. Had she explored the spread of foods throughout the world in a reasonable way, it could have been a grand slam. However, she decided to reduce and narrow the experiences of people in history to the simple and reductive neo Marxist paradigm so exhaustingly prevalent in todays writing. She could have exposed some amazing human development through the interactions of dynamic groups. But instead rested and relied on tired cliches. Sad she lost so much due to her reliance on established memes that have been debunked.

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magisterial

I have read this book when it came out, but what a delight it was to hear while walking. The information fed directly into my food history class which I'm teaching right now.