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The Rise of the Modern Food System


  • Credit value: 15 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor and tutor: Jason Edwards
  • Assessment: a 3000-word essay (90%) and three seminar logs (10%)

Module description

This module examines key questions about the rise of the modern global food system. It examines key debates about the origins of agricultural production, the legacy of colonialism and imperialism for the food system, the impact of food on the development of capitalism, the state’s role in the regulation of food production and consumption, and the limits of a ‘cultural’ as opposed to a ‘political’ approach to the question of food and social relations. The module is self-consciously cross-disciplinary in incorporating political-theoretical, historical-sociological, cultural-anthropological and public policy literatures into the syllabus.

Indicative module syllabus

  • The Agricultural Revolution
  • The Columbian Exchange
  • The State and Food
  • Food, War and the State System
  • Capitalism and the Food System
  • Industrial Food
  • Food Nationalism
  • The Biopolitics of Alcohol
  • The Consuming Body

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand the main theoretical debates about the character of the modern food system
  • demonstrate a critical understanding of key subjects in the historical and political sociology of foo production and consumption
  • critically analyse key questions about the rise of the modern food system
  • demonstrate an understanding of how various disciplinary approaches drawn from the social sciences and humanities contribute towards the understanding of food production and consumption
  • demonstrate skills of analysis and critique that can be transferred to further study in the social sciences and humanities.