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Britain’s Food (and industrial) revolution

Britain not only lead the industrial revolution by transforming the transport system, creating steam to power machinery and invented Portland cement. It also meant the second biggest food revolution since the Neolithic.

Survival farming became forever associated with underdevelopment and large scale food production remained as the “best” and most progressive way to ensure food supply to the ever growing urban developments.

This of course meant deep changes in the traditional uses of farm land and agriculture, crop rotation and sustainable animal farming became crucial to achieve a steady and sustainable food production, this was particularly important due to Britain’s limited and most valued resource: land.

Britain was the first country in the world to successfully eradicate famines and setbacks in food supply. One can argue that British imperial food policies weren’t as generous and just overseas but that’s a story for another time.

H.J._Heinz_Co. (Wiki Commons)In the early years of the industrial revolution, the whole social structure had many shifts, saw the emergence of a new proletariat class where everybody play a part, including children, especially those born in poverty had to contribute to the household.

The rise of mass produced food products at lower prices meant the disappearance of artisanal goods.

And because gas and eventually electricity meant that workers could have longer shifts, domestic food preparation became almost impossible to do. Food had to be bought at accessible prices.

New milling machinery meant larger and better flour production that fuelled the industrialization of bread.

Little note on that: mass produced bread loaves weren’t always necessarily received as enthusiastically as we might imagine, in fact many complaint about the quality and the lack of “homely taste”, some went even further by saying that making good bread was in fact one of women’s duties.

I’ll wrap up this post by saying that we in fact owe a huge debt to the industrious Victorians who dared challenging the limits of human capacity, they had the courage to imagine a brighter future and had faith in their inventions however innocent some might seem today.

Next time you’re in a flea market and happen to find a Hovis loaf mould, buy it and bake some good old loaf!

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