Every now and again a book comes along that transforms our understanding of a subject that had previously seemed so well worn and familiar. That is the measure of Lizzie Collingham’s achievement in this outstanding global account of the role played by food (and its absence) during the Second World War. It will now be impossible to think of the war in the old way. Collingham has added a whole new layer of understanding not only about the way the war was fought but about the gruelling consequences for tens of millions of non-combatants worldwide when the food chain collapsed.
Collingham begins by placing the issue of food in the larger context of the global food economy as it emerged from the nineteenth century. Industrialisation allowed food to be imported by richer states in return for industrial products, but for most major economies there remained a high level