POTATOES AND WAR. Professor Mcneill points out that potatoes did not only affect history by providing energy for large populations. They also ended one kind of devastation that early modern warfare caused for peasant populations. Peasants relied on storing grain to get them through the winter months. Says Mcneill: “…wherever the local population depended on stored grain for survival, outright starvation was the usual and expected result of every extended campaign.” This held true from 1450 to the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648. By that time, peasants had learned to “store” potatoes below ground, by simply not digging them up until needed. Armies might seize stored grain; they were not going to dig up potatoes one at a time. Mcneill concludes: “The value of potatoes in time of war was so enormous that every military campaign on European soil after about 1560 resulted in an increase in potato acreage, down to and including World War II.”

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