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Saving the nation from starvation: the heroic age of food control, June 1917 to July 1918

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2019

John Martin
Affiliation:
Centre for English Local History, University of Leicester
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

The civilian food shortages and accompanying malnutrition that characterised the latter stages of the First World War were instrumental in fundamentally changing the course of European history. In Russia, food shortages were a key underlying factor in precipitating the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, while in Germany, food shortages led to the so-called ‘turnip winter’ of 1917, which effectively helped to undermine commitment to the war effort and contribute to the country’s defeat. In spite of Britain’s precarious dependence on imported food, and the shipping losses inflicted by German U-boats, the population was less badly affected. This achievement has been attributed to the work undertaken by Lord Rhondda, the second food controller, whose actions were characterised as the ‘heroic age of food control’. This article uses evidence from official government reports, newspapers and diaries, memoirs and biographies to challenge the prevailing historiography about the success of food control measures in Britain during the First World War. It shows that the Ministry of Food under Lord Rhondda’s period of tenureship was not only indecisive, but that efforts to save the nation from malnutrition, if not actual starvation, were in large part the result of initiatives implemented at the local level.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© Cambridge University Press 2019 

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References

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39 Ibid., p. 2.

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43 Ibid.

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87 Ibid.

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100 The Times, 16th March 1921.

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