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AHA Today


March 2018


American Historical Association

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.


“Never underestimate the ‘hangry.’” This might as well be one of the learning objectives in my Foundations of Western Civilization course at Utah State University. Whether the bread riots of the 1790s in France, the “Hungry 1840s,” or the starvation of Russian citizens after the conclusion of World War II, food (and access to it) has continued to be a mobilizing factor in history. By examining what people ate and how they ate at different points in time, we can know a lot about a particular era’s economic conditions, social mores, political conflicts, religious issues, and nutrition. For the past three semesters, my students have used Northwestern University Knight Lab’s TimelineJS to create a digital chronology of the history of food in Western civilizations from roughly 1700 to 2001. Using food as a lens to examine the history of the modern West with a digital timeline is an illuminating and engaging method to teach a general education survey.

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