Wartime fat shaming (1917)

Here’s another story from the Cornell University Archives. Faculty at the NY State College of Home Economics worked closely with the federal Food Administration to develop and manage food rationing during the First World War. Home Economists taught people how to use underutilized foods, but in calling on citizens to “do their fair share” inContinue reading “Wartime fat shaming (1917)”

An Englishman’s list of unappetizing food (1839)

Cornell’s archive holds notes from the Herrington Food Science lectures, c. 1951-1961, which were part of a basic course in the history of nutrition for undergraduates. The professor quoted an obscure treatise on egg incubation by William Bucknell for its description of food in Europe. Up to a third of Englishmen, according to Bucknell, “subsist almostContinue reading “An Englishman’s list of unappetizing food (1839)”

99.9% Communist (Home Economics and the Cold War)

Last summer I was fortunate enough to spend six weeks at Cornell University, exploring their huge collection of material on the history of home economics. I am finishing an article on colonial and post-colonial food policy in Ghana, and remembered one of the reasons I applied to work at Cornell: a 1960s project to startContinue reading “99.9% Communist (Home Economics and the Cold War)”

Palm oil and deforestation in SE Asia

In a new article, Peter Guest examines one of the most dangerous trends in oil palm cultivation: the explosion of smallholder cultivation alongside large-scale plantations and processing mills. Guest visits the front lines of the oil palm frontier in Sumatra, where large and small plantations are encroaching on sensitive forest ecosystems. Peter Guest: “Last stand atContinue reading “Palm oil and deforestation in SE Asia”

“Fatter Cows, Slimmer Women”

That was how Newsweek described the work of the Cornell University nutrition program in a 1953 article. I’m reviewing notes I took last summer at the Cornell archives, where I was fortunate to be working as the College of Human Ecology Dean’s Fellow. My goal was to trace changing ideas about fat in the American diet,Continue reading ““Fatter Cows, Slimmer Women””

American exodus, viewed from Africa

In Cotton and Race across the Atlantic, I wrote about several attempts to transplant African Americans to Africa. The idea of emigration is an old one, dating a century beyond the well-known antics of Marcus Garvey and his “back to Africa” movement. Historians have written a lot about African American emigration movements, but relatively little is knownContinue reading “American exodus, viewed from Africa”

The “Special Relationship” in Action

In 1943, the allied powers met at Hot Springs, Arkansas, to discuss the future of food and agriculture in the post-war order. I’m going to spend more time researching this event, but in the meantime, enjoy a brief excerpt from a British report on the conference which illustrates how British politicians thoroughly enjoyed playing theContinue reading “The “Special Relationship” in Action”

Trophy shots

This photo caught my eye last year. It was in a photo book from the 1924-1925 British Empire Exhibition, at Wembley. The photo caption unfortunately doesn’t offer any information about the exhibit. Are these men’s portraits “anthropological specimens” juxtaposed with the animal specimens mounted next to them? I think was from CO 1069/73, UK NationalContinue reading “Trophy shots”

Filthy Lucre

This snippet found in the Ghanaian national archives in Accra didn’t seem to warrant a full-blown research article, but I thought it was funny enough to transcribe. A medical officer in colonial Gold Coast wrote an article titled “Filthy Lucre” for the colony’s 1920 annual report (ADM 5/1/77, PRAAD-Accra). He wrote that “the native African isContinue reading “Filthy Lucre”


This website is under construction. I want it to serve two purposes: to share my published academic research with a wider audience, and to invite fellow historians and the public to engage with my in-progress work. I will be posting extracts from archives, notable quotes, data sets, and other materials in coming weeks. Stay tuned!