McNeill, 1999. Social Research 66(1):67-83

How the Potato Changed the World's History
William McNeill

Social Research: An International Quarterly
Food: Nature and Culture
Arien Mack, Editor

Volume 66, No. 1 (Spring 1999): 67-83

ABSTRACT: This article discusses how the potato changed the world's history. Today, potatoes are a valued and important crop in China as well as in Europe and North America, and remain the staple food of Andean farmers in the South American altiplano. But only twice can one say that potatoes made a critical difference for world history: initially in the altiplano, where potatoes provided the principal energy source for the Inca Empire, its predecessors and its Spanish successor; and then subsequently in northern Europe, where potatoes, by feeding rapidly growing populations, permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over most of the world between 1750 and 1950. These two instances helped established...

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