David Abulafia David Abulafia

Bitter harvest – how Ukraine’s wheat has always been coveted

Scott Reynolds Nelson stresses the importance of Ukrainian grain in world history and how the demand for bread has long been a major cause of war

‘Harvest in Ukraine’ by Nikolai Kornilovich Pimonenko, 1886. [Getty Images]

Publishers love books with ambitious subtitles such as ‘How Bubblegum Made the Modern World’, and this one’s, about American wheat remaking the world, was no doubt devised to appeal to readers in the United States. It is not really appropriate: for ‘American’, read ‘Ukrainian’. The focal point of Oceans of Grain lies very far from the vast wheat fields of North America.

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