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Food and Society in Early Modern Europe (Online) (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

Food has played a key role in history. This course examines the diets of rich and poor in Early Modern Europe, effects of famine, patterns of consumption, and the relationship with science and religion. It explores the wider significance of food, as a valuable commodity, and an instrument of power and social control.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No prior knowledge required. Students will need to be able to confidently use videoconferencing software and be comfortable with using websites.

Special Information

In order to participate in this course, you will need access to a computer with a speaker, microphone and an internet connection.

Content of Course

1. An introduction to sources, trends and problems.

2. Supply and farming in late medieval and Renaissance Europe.

3. Food, medicine and science.

4. Food and status: elite diets, preparation and consumption.

5. Food and religion. Order and misrule.

6. Retailers, shopping and taste in early modern Europe.

7. Famine and dietary deficiency.

8. Wine and Beer: Production and drinking habits, taverns and regulation.

9. Food and trade: Changing trade patterns, commodities and revenues.

10. New foodstuffs and changing patterns of consumption.

Teaching method(s)

This course will be taught through a combination of available materials and live online sessions. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand and compare the food cultures of different social and geographical groups in early modern Europe;

  • Evaluate and explain the extent to which patterns of consumption changed over the period;

  • Discuss the social and economic effects of food shortage and other dietary deficiencies;

  • Assess the value of food in a variety of contexts, e.g. as a sign of status, as a valuable commodity, its ceremonial value;

  • Engage critically with primary and secondary sources;

  • Demonstrate the above points in the assessment.


Core Readings


  • Rebora, G. (2001) Culture of the Fork. A Brief History of Food in Europe. [Online]. New York, Columbia University Press


  • Guido Alfani and Cormac Ó Gráda (2017) Famines in Europe: An Overview. In: Famine in European history. [Online]. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–24. Available from: doi:10.1017/9781316841235.

  • Albala K. (2003) Food in Early Modern Europe. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press

  • Cavallo, S. and Storey, T. (2013) Healthy Living in Late Renaissance Italy. [Online]. Oxford: Oxford University Press

  • Gentilcore, D. (2016) Food and Health in Early Modern Europe: Diet, Medicine and Society, 1450–1800. 1st edition. [Online]. Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Available from: doi:10.5040/9781474219563.

  • Holt, Mack P. (2006) Alcohol: a social and cultural history. Oxford: Berg

  • Kissane, C. (2018) Food, Religion and Communities in Early Modern Europe. [Online]. London: Bloomsbury Academic

  • Krohn, D.L. (2015) Introduction: Cooking, Reading, and Writing in the Late Renaissance. In: Food and Knowledge in Renaissance Italy: Bartolomeo Scappi’s Paper Kitchens. [Online]. Routledge. pp. 19–38. Available from: doi:10.4324/9781315582597-4.

  • Krondl, M. (2016) Food Systems: Pepper, Herring, and Beer. In: Fabio Parasecoli, Peter Scholliers, Paul Erdkamp, Massimo Montanari, et al. (eds.). A cultural history of food. vol. 3. London, Bloomsbury. pp. 45–62.

  • Magagna, V. (2016) Food and Politics: The Power of Bread in European Culture. In: Fabio Parasecoli, Peter Scholliers, Paul Erdkamp, Massimo Montanari, et al. (eds.). A cultural history of food, vol. 4. London, Bloomsbury. pp. 65–86

  • Sara Pennell (2016) Professional Cooking, Kitchens, and Service Work: Accomplisht Cookery. In: Beat Kümin, Fabio Parasecoli, Peter Scholliers, Paul Erdkamp, et al. (eds.). A cultural history of food, vol. 4. London, Bloomsbury. pp. 103–122.

  • Schwartz S. (ed.) (2004) Tropical Babylons: Sugar and the Making of the Atlantic World, 1450-1680, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press

  • Toussaint-Samat, M. (2009) (2nd ed.). A History of Food. Wiley-Blackwell.


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.