An Appetite for Violence: The Industrial Food System and the Making of the “Great War” in Imperial Germany

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 2:10 PM
Salon 6 (Palmer House Hilton)
Alice Autumn Weinreb, Loyola University Chicago
This paper will explore the interdependence of the global, industrial food economy and the global, industrial war economies of the First World War, focusing on Germany. My paper looks at two key aspects of this new food system. First, it explores the new reality of food as a global commodity, as processing and transportation technologies allow foods to be moved across the world in the form of American food aid, and allows food to be prevented from entering entire nations, as in the British “Hunger Blockade” of Germany. Secondly, it explores simultaneous developments in chemistry which confirm the interdependence of agriculture and munitions production – most famously in nitrogen production. These were the developments that inspired the new slogan of the First World War: “Food will win the war.” This paper suggests that food industrialization is inseparable from the rise of modern warfare. In other words, though wars are often described as radical ruptures or breaks in the ‘normal, peacetime’ industrial food system, the study of Germany during the World War I suggests that war is an intrinsic component of this food system.