Food: Ethics, Politics, History

Food: Ethics, Politics, History
Food: Ethics, Politics, History - A panel discussion on the ethical and political issues raised by food consumption and production

Food is a fundamental human need, in which the individual, the social and the natural have always come together. It is thus fraught with ethical and social issues, both historically and today. Organised by the University of Sheffield, this panel discussion brings together five speakers and a chair with extensive experience of food writing, food history and the food industry to discuss the questions raised by the ethics and politics of food. 

The panelists are Mike Braddick (food historian), Lizzie Collingham (food historian and writer), Richard Hide (coffee trader), John Lanchester (food writer and critic), and Bee Wilson (food writer), and will be chaired by Phil Withington (food historian).

The panel discussion will be followed by Q&A.

Date: Friday 13th May 2022, 6.00-7.30pm

Venue: Foodhall, 62 Brown Street, Sheffield S1 2BS

Tickets: free, but limited and booking requires a £5 deposit which will be refunded after attendance at the event. Tickets can be booked HERE.

Organisers: Prof Robert Stern ( and Prof Henk de Berg (

For any queries, please contact Patrizia Baldi (

The panel speakers and chair are as follows:

Mike Braddick is Professor of History at the University of Sheffield, specializing in the early modern period. He is interested in the history of food as a commodity, and is currently leading a research project on the politics of the English grain trade from 1314-1815. At the centre of this history is the question: Under what circumstances is a basic food stuff a commodity like any other, and when is it a public good, whose distribution entails ethical values and collective regulation? 

Mike Braddick

Lizzie Collingham is an independent historian interested in linking the minutiae of daily life to the broad sweep of historical processes. She began her career as a historian by researching the physical experience of the British Raj (Imperial Bodies) but then moved into the field of food as a way of exploring historical processes. She is the author of Curry: a tale of cooks and conquerors; The Taste of War: World War II and the battle for food; The Hungry Empire: how Britain’s quest for food shaped the modern world and The Biscuit: the history of a very British indulgence. She is currently a Visiting Fellow at Jesus College, Cambridge.

Lizzie Collingham

Richard Hide is a coffee market specialist who has worked for 30 years with smallholder coffee co-operatives in Africa and Latin America to maximise their incomes though taking their coffee into international markets. He has been at the forefront of initiatives to make coffee production more socially and environmentally sustainable, from leading the sourcing and product development programme for Cafédirect in the 1990s to developing speciality coffee value chains in remote regions of Africa including Rwanda, Burundi and most recently the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Certifications (Fairtrade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance) have a role to play but are far from the whole story.

Richard Hide

John Lanchester is a novelist and non-fiction writer who has been writing about food, on and off, for three decades, including two stints as a restaurant critic at the Observer from 1992-1995 and the Guardian from 2010-12; a column in Esquire from 2007 to 2010; and a 1996 novel, The Debt to Pleasure, which won the Whitbread First Novel Award, was translated into twenty-five languages, and has just resurfaced in an OFM feature called 50 Things We Love In the World of Food Right Now. He is a keen amateur cook.

John Lanchester

Bee Wilson is a writer and journalist, mostly writing about food. She writes for a wide range of publications including The London Review of Books and The Financial Times. She is the author of six books on food-related subjects including The Way We Eat Now which considered some of the contradictions, pleasures and challenges of eating in the modern world. Her next project is a cookbook, due to be published next year (The Secret of Cooking). She is the co-founder of TastEd, a food education charity aimed at giving children opportunities to experience fresh vegetables and fruits in a joyful way. 

Beth Wilson

Phil Withington is Professor of Social and Cultural History at the University of Sheffield and has published extensively on the social, political, economic and cultural history of intoxicants and intoxication. Most recently he led an international project looking at the impact of 'new' intoxicants like coffee, tobacco, and opium on European cities between the 16th and 19th centuries ( 

Photo of Phil Withington

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