Italy and the Potato: A History, 1550–2000

Italy and the Potato: A History, 1550–2000

by David Gentilcore

David Gentilcore is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Leicester, UK. He is the author of Pomodoro! (2010) and Medical Charlatanism in Early Modern Italy (2006). Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Continuum, 2012
  • DOI:
  • ISBN:
    978-1-4411-4038-8 (hardback)

    978-1-4411-7369-0 (epub)

    978-1-4411-7626-4 (epdf)

    978-1-3500-4766-2 (online)

    978-1-4725-2631-1 (paperback)
  • Edition:
    First edition
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  • Published Online:
Italy and the Potato: A History, 1550–2000
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Italy, like the rest of Europe, owes a lot to the ‘Columbian exchange’. As a result of this process, in addition to potatoes, Europe acquired maize, tomatoes and most types of beans. All are basic elements of European diet and cookery today. The international importance of the potato today as the world’s most cultivated vegetable highlights its place in the Columbian exchange.

While the history of the potato in the United States, Ireland, Britain and other parts of northern Europe is quite well known, little is known about the slow rise and eventual fall of the potato in Italy. This book aims to fill that gap, arguing why the potato’s ‘Italian’ history is important. It is both a social and cultural history of the potato in Italy and a history of agriculture in marginal areas. David Gentilcore examines the developing presence of the potato in elite and peasant culture, its place in the difficult mountain environment, in family recipe notebooks and kitchen accounts, in travellers’ descriptions, agronomical treatises, cookery books, and in Italian literature.