Potatoes are is the world’s number one non-grain food commodity, and a major source of food to people in many parts of the world. This is quite an achievement for a plant that 500 years ago was totally unknown to most of humanity. My work on the potato’s global history stresses the contributions made by peasants and small farmers to disseminating this important food, and also traces out the surprising connections between capitalism, the Enlightenment, and our individual eating habits.

The Potato Project led to two books: Feeding the People: the Politics of the Potato is a global history of the potato’s remarkable journey from the Andes to everywhere. A shorter essay called, simply, Potato offers a more poetic meditation on people, potatoes and the pursuit of happiness. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, ‘each section educates, brings a smile, makes you hungry, and makes you think’. ‘I’ll never look at a potato the same way again’, said the food writer Ruby Tandoh.

Guaman Poma de Ayala, ‘June: Time of Digging up the Potatoes’, ‘El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno’, 1615-16, The Royal Danish Library,


Feeding the People (2020)

Potato (2019)

Full Publication List

YearCategoryPublication TypeTitlePublisherLink
2022Journalism and InterviewsInterview"How the humble potato has travelled the world and shaped history"SCAS Talks Podcast
2022Journalism and InterviewsInterview"Feeding the People"Hungry Books Podcast
2021ScholarshipBook Chapter'Potato' in Objects of New World Knowledge: A Cabinet of CuriositiesUniversity of London PressLink
2021ScholarshipArticlePotatoes, Population and StatesEarly American Studies 19:2Link
2021Journalism and InterviewsInterviewFeeding the People: Interview with Daniela Gutierrez FloresNew Books Network
2020ScholarshipBookFeeding the People: The Politics of the PotatoCambridge University PressLink
2020Journalism and InterviewsInterviewPotato Politics with Rebecca Earle, interview with Malcolm JolleyGood Food RevolutionLink
2020Journalism and InterviewsInterviewInterview with Ann & Peter HaighOn The MenuLink
2020Journalism and InterviewsInterview'How Potatoes Changed the World’: Interview with Laura MahlerEarth Ideas
2020Journalism and InterviewsInterview'This Spud’s for You’: Interview with Cynthia Graber and Nicola TwilleyGastropodLink
2020Journalism and InterviewsInterviewBook Q&A with Deborah KalbDeborah Kalb BooksLink
2020Journalism and InterviewsInterviewHow Did Potatoes Become Political in Wartime?History Hit
2020Journalism and InterviewsInterviewHow the Humble Potato Conquered the WorldConstant Wonder, BYU RadioLink
2020Journalism and InterviewsInterview‘The Politics of the Potato': Interview with Dan SnowHistory HitLink
2020Journalism and InterviewsArticleHow Potatoes Conquered the WorldBBC History Magazine
2019ScholarshipJournal ArticlePotatoes and the Pursuit of HappinessGastronomica 19:1Link
2019ScholarshipBookPotato (Object Lessons)Bloomsbury AcademicLink
2018ScholarshipJournal ArticlePotatoes and the Hispanic EnlightenmentThe Americas 75:4Link
2018ScholarshipJournal ArticlePromoting Potatoes in Eighteenth-Century EuropeEighteenth-Century Studies 51:2Link
2017ScholarshipJournal ArticleFood, Colonialism and the Quantum of HappinessHistory Workshop Journal 84Link
2017Journalism and InterviewsArticleHow the Humble Potato Fuelled the Rise of Liberal CapitalismThe ConversationLink
2017Journalism and InterviewsInterviewOne Potato More on The Food ChainBBC World ServiceLink
2017Journalism and InterviewsInterviewPoor Old Potato on The Food ChainBBC World ServiceLink
2016Journalism and InterviewsArticleGiving Thanks for the Sweet PotatoSunday Telegraph
2016Journalism and InterviewsArticleMaking an Eighteenth-Century Potato PuddingJohn Carter Brown Library BlogsLink
2016Journalism and InterviewsJournal ArticleBoil 'Em, Mash 'Em, Stick ‘em in a PuddingJohn Carter Brown Library BlogsLink
2016Journalism and InterviewsArticleSweet Potatoes, Donald Trump—and the Special RelationshipThe Conversation


Relevant Blog Posts


Potatoes in a Pandemic

Potatoes in a Pandemic

‘Baked potato saved my life’, sang Matt Lucas, in a fundraising video for the NHS that brought smiles to faces across the UK. The joyful silliness helps explain its appeal. Of course a baked potato can’t save anyone’s life. Or can it?