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The Hunger War (Hardback)

Food, Rations and Rationing 1914-1918

Military WWI

By Matthew Richardson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 290
ISBN: 9781473827493
Published: 12th October 2015



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In the First World War the supply of food to civilians became as significant a factor in final victory as success or defeat on the battlefields. Never before had the populations of entire countries lived under siege conditions, yet this extraordinary situation is often overlooked as a decisive factor in the outcome of the conflict.
Matthew Richardson, in this highly readable and original comparative study, looks at the food supply situation on the British, German, French, Russian and Italian home fronts, as well as on the battlefields. His broad perspective contrasts with some narrower approaches to the subject, and brings a fresh insight into the course of the war on all the major fronts.
He explores the causes of food shortages, as well as the ways in which both combatant and neutral nations attempted to overcome them. He looks at widely differing attitudes towards alcohol during the war, and the social impacts of food shortages, as well as the ways in which armies attempted to victual their troops in the field.

As featured on

History of the Great War podcast

It is impossible to do full justice to this excellently produced book in a short review, but I found it to be one of the most informative and enthralling accounts of the relationship between people and their food at a specific period. It should greatly expand the horizons of those who think that food history should not extend beyond the study of recipe books.

Peter Brears, Food Historian

Analysing Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Italy and others, this comparative study on the supply of food in the First World War offers a highly readable account on how various nations, belligerent and neutral, battled to feed their military forces and their civil populations. Rarely, if ever before, had entire nations faced such shortages and hardship as a result of a war so large in scale it effectively 'sieged' each participant. The critical impact the supply of food had on Britain and Germany in particular, and on their conduct of pursuing the war, is rarely appreciated, but certainly has been in this work.

Britain at War, April 2016
 Matthew Richardson

About Matthew Richardson

Matthew Richardson is Curator of Social History at Manx National Heritage. He has a long-term interest in military history and has published several outstanding books on the subject including 1914: Voices from the Battlefields, The Hunger War: Food, Rations and Rationing 1914-1918 and Eyewitness on the Somme 1916. He also has a keen interest in the history of the Isle of Man TT and, in addition to producing several acclaimed exhibitions on this subject, worked with Dave Molyneux on The Racer’s Edge: Memoirs of an Isle of Man TT Legend.

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