The British Empire was not built on gold, silver or precious gems – it was built on food. The desire to trade and the need to feed its population drove Britain to engage in dramatic exploration and expansion in a quest to discover ever more exotic foodstuffs and satisfy the growing appetite back home.
Millions of people were caught up in this ever-expanding web, from West African slaves and Bengali opium farmers to gauchos in Argentina and pioneers in the American West. They not only provided the foodstuffs on which the empire’s trade depended: their lives were shaped and changed, some enriched and others destroyed, by the insatiable appetite of the British Empire.
Built around a selection of memorable meals across the centuries and the continents, The Hungry Empire tells their story. We take breakfast with an Assamese tribe, and join a tea party in Raiatea; we sample blackbird pie with a family on the American prairies and enjoy Christmas Dinner with a sailor in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Through these people and their meals, Lizzie Collingham weaves together a captivating and illuminating story of how the tastes of an empire shaped the world.