FPH-21306 History of Food Production


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Group work14
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. G Sala
Lecturer(s)dr. IJJ de Zwarte
dr. ir. G Sala
Examiner(s)dr. ir. G Sala
prof. dr. EHP Frankema

Language of instruction:



In this course we trace technological developments and cross-cultural influences of food production in human history and show how these have been affecting the evolution of historical civilizations up to the present. Engaging with this long temporal view helps students to reflect on the origins and effects of technological developments in food production, and thereby raises their awareness of the importance and the limitations of their professional training.
The course consists of three thematic and chronological blocks:
1) The origins of agriculture (centres of Neolithic agriculture; systems of land exploitation);
2) The global diffusion of plants and animals (separation between Old and New World; Columbian Exchange);
3) The development of modern industrial food technology (changes in food processing technologies and consumption practices; industrial revolution; role of science in food production).
In the lectures we pay attention to the following questions:
- why did foragers become farmers?
- how did early agrarian states spread across the globe?
- how did ancient Rome organize its food supply?
- how did artisanal foods (bread, cheese, oil and wine) originate? How has their production changed in time?
- how did agriculture change social systems in medieval Europe?
- what did the 'Columbian Exchange' mean for the globalization of food production?
- what are the historical roots of the Dutch dairy sector?
- what did famous food scientists (Appert, von Liebig, Pasteur, Maillard) mean for the development of the food industry?
- how did food production industrialize in the 19th century?
- how did the Green Revolution (1940-1970) contribute to food security in the 20th century?
- how have food frauds influenced the way we look at food?
- what is the future of the food industry?

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- locate the key-stones in the global history of food production in space and time;
- reflect on the territorial and social embedding of food production;
- recognize and understand the most important innovations in the development of a number of foods in the past three centuries;
The final outcome of these skills should lead to students who:
- have started thinking about ways to analyse, discuss and theoretically reflect on the long-term social implications of the introduction of new foods and production processes;
- have a greater awareness about how their education and profession fits into a much broader context;
- have a greater awareness about how people and societies relate to food production in history and the present-day.


- plenary lectures;
- tutorials;
- writing of a group report.


The final grading is based on a written exam with open questions (60% of the final mark) and a group essay (40% of the final mark). For both elements, a minimum pass mark of 5.5 is required. The grade for group essay is valid for 5 years.


The required literature will be outlined during the course.

Restricted Optional for: BFTFood TechnologyBSc2MO