Global Food, Health, and Society

A Colby Community Website for ST297, Fall 2018

The Long Lasting Effects of the Industrial Revolution

As time has gone on, people have relied more and more on larger institutions to provide long-term stability. Before World War I, many societies had to rely on the close surrounding communities to provide food and get resources from. Now, however, food is more accessible around the world, especially in wealthier more developed places, due largely to effects of the Industrial Revolution and changes that have occurred in society. The shift from people relying primarily on them self for sources of food to relying on larger organizations and institutions was due largely to the creation of International Organizations after World War I, which eventually led to larger food organizations and productions, taking on a larger role in humans lives now; overall better food security and diversity.

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Before World War I humans and societies around the world had primarily relied on food that came from their surroundings and their own hands for nutrition. Outside resources were limited, expensive, and uncommon, therefore it was individuals responsibility to provide nutrition for them. The labor force was primarily focused on agricultural endeavors, which eventually shifted as time went on.

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After World War I, food security was a rising concern as the war depleted the resources that were once abundant, and malnutrition became an issue that plagued most countries associated with the war. The countries able to mobilize sufficient food resources had higher levels of health, showing the impact of food shortages on a population’s health and the correlation of food and health . The concern of the health issues associated with food shortages led to the creation of certain organizations that catalyzed the increase of people who looked to larger organizations to help with getting food during times of crisis. One of the more influential and first organizations to come about was the Save The Children Fund which was created in 1919 by Eglantyne Jebb and her sister Dorothy Buxton in an effort to alleviate starvation of children during the allied blockade of Germany of World War I which continued after the Armistice (Kamminga).

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The concern with ensuring social stability was evident with the creation of the League of Nations Health Organization, which was launched to combat epidemics in Eastern Europe, but eventually came to sponsor a nutrition program. It sponsored these programs through two different separate strands of its activities, one through setting specific scientific international standards in an effort to increase the levels of health; for example, testing for syphilis, the creation and continued research of certain medicines and more. The LNHO also created and refined nutritional standards, identifying individual factors that made up a ‘healthy diet’ and determined the quantity of foods that were beneficial for people. Food started to be controlled and regulated by outside organizations shifting from a world that viewed food as a personal concern to a global concern.

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The British Agricultural Revolution was one of the causes of the Industrial Revolution, which lasted from the late 1700’s to early 1800’s and created a drastic shift in overall human life. The British Agricultural Revolution described the period between the mid 17th and 19th century in which there was an unprecedented increase in agricultural production due to increases in labor and land productivity (Overton). The increase in food sparked an increase in the population and gave way to a lager labor force, which increased overall productivity in agriculture. As there was a increase in the labor force, the responsibility for individuals in agricultural production decreased which allowed there to be an increase in the workforce that then was able to focus on the upcoming Industrial Revolution.

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The Industrial Revolution is characterized with association to an increase in technological findings that led to a change and increase in efficiency in overall manufacturing processes. The industrial revolution brought about new manufacturing processes such as the assembly line, the rise of the factory system, the development of machine tools, iron production processes, chemical manufacturing and more (Johnson). The Industrial Revolution was a changing point for many aspects of human life and the overall standard of living. Agriculture changed as well during this time as technology, such as the seed drill, the Dutch plough, was able to increase human productivity and led there to be higher outputs of food (Johnson). The Industrial Revolution also paved the way for larger corporations and restaurant chains to take over food production, which resulted in a decrease in food prices and an overall increase in accessibility to foods that were produced due to the Industrial Revolution.

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The shift in the labor from agriculture to an industry based labor force provided the tools for a change in the production and accessibility to food. This had many implications on the culture surrounding food and the overall quality of life, as food was more available as the population grew. The shift towards a more industrialized society has continued and allowed for population growth and overall increases in health.

Sources:

Johnson, E. A. J., et al. JOURNAL OF ECONOMIC HISTORY. Economic History Association at Johns Hopkins University, 1941.
Kamminga, Harmke. The Science and Culture of Nutrition. Rodopi, 1995.
OVERTON, Mark. Agricultural Revolution in England. CUP.

1 Comment

  1. I really enjoyed learning about the progression of how food has been industrialized throughout history. The only question I have is about how the great depression influenced this process and how the health of individuals has been affected by it. In addition, you mention a spark in “a change in culture surrounding food and the overall quality of life.” I would be interested to understand how exactly that culture changed.

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