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Life Sciences - Plant Sciences | American Journal of Potato Research - incl. option to publish open access

American Journal of Potato Research

American Journal of Potato Research

The Official Journal of the Potato Association of America

Editor-in-Chief: John Bamberg

ISSN: 1099-209X (print version)

Journal no. 12230

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We are pleased to offer you free trial access to the following outstanding article of the year designated by the Editor-in-Chief. This special offer is valid until June 30th, 2017

Impact of the Potato on Society 

H. De Jong

The first impact of the potato on society was the intimate relationship between the domestication of the potato and the evolution of Andean civilization which affected Andean culture and religion. In addition to food potatoes were used for several non-food purposes. In the Inca Empire the freeze-dried chuño was collected as taxes from the peasants and disbursed from imperial storehouses to labor gangs for building roads, waging war, and erecting monuments. After the Spanish conquest chuño was used to feed the slaves in the Andean silver and gold mines. This in turn set the stage for flooding the Spanish and eventually the global market with these precious metals and subsequent world-wide inflation of consumer goods. The potato became the major contributor to the European population explosion of 1750–1850 which in turn resulted in increased urbanization and contributed to the underpinning of the Industrial Revolution in England in the nineteenth century. By feeding rapidly growing populations the potato permitted a small number of nations in northern Europe to assert dominion over much of the world between 1750 and 1950. The failure of the potato crop in Ireland in the 1840s led Britain to repeal the protectionist Corn Laws and set the country on a path of free trade. At least one million Irish refugees emigrated, mostly to North America where they left a great legacy. The past 50 years have seen a major global shift in potato production towards many developing countries in Asia, including China and India. Throughout its history the potato has provided bread for the poor. Today it contributes to food security on a global scale. The potato’s depiction on postage stamps demonstrates the esteem in which it is held worldwide and the many references to the potato in art, literature and folklore worldwide are evidence how it has become interwoven in the cultures of many societies today.

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