In her latest book English Food: A People’s History, Diane Purkiss offers just that, an entrancing survey of what and how the English ate, with due recognition that “‘the English’ are not a single entity” and that the past necessarily illuminates the present. Impossible to cover all that in a single episode, or even several, we set out to explore what happens when the vast bulk of the English do not have enough to eat. Food riots are a recurring feature of rural life in England, often the result of bad weather and always exacerbated by the action — or inaction — of the ruling classes. As Diane told me at the outset, “it might be faster to talk about what rebellions don’t have a food element”.
- You can buy English Food: A People’s History online from an independent bookseller. It has just won the Guild of Food Writers award for Best Food Book of 2023.
- Those uprisings:
- An episode from the vaults dealt with Food prices and social unrest in the context of the Arab Spring and more recent manifestations.
- Swing letters from the British National Archive.
- Here is the transcript.