History through the eyes of the potato – Leo Bear-McGuinness

History through the eyes of the potato – Leo Bear-McGuinness


Baked or fried, boiled or roasted, as chips or fries. At some point in your life,
you’ve probably eaten a potato. Delicious, for sure, but the fact is potatoes have played a
much more significant role in our history than just that of the dietary staple
we have come to know and love today. Without the potato, our modern civilization
might not exist at all. 8,000 years ago in South America,
high atop the Andes, ancient Peruvians were the first
to cultivate the potato. Containing high levels of proteins
and carbohydrates, as well as essential fats, vitamins
and minerals, potatoes were the perfect food source
to fuel a large Incan working class as they built and farmed
their terraced fields, mined the Rocky Mountains, and created the sophisticated civilization
of the great Incan Empire. But considering how vital they were
to the Incan people, when Spanish sailors
returning from the Andes first brought potatoes to Europe, the spuds were duds. Europeans simply didn’t want to eat what they considered dull and tasteless
oddities from a strange new land, too closely related to the deadly
nightshade plant belladonna for comfort. So instead of consuming them, they used potatoes
as decorative garden plants. More than 200 years would pass
before the potato caught on as a major food source throughout Europe, though even then, it was predominantly eaten
by the lower classes. However, beginning around 1750, and thanks at least in part to the wide availability
of inexpensive and nutritious potatoes, European peasants
with greater food security no longer found themselves at the mercy of the regularly
occurring grain famines of the time, and so their populations steadily grew. As a result, the British, Dutch
and German Empires rose on the backs of the growing groups
of farmers, laborers, and soldiers, thus lifting the West to its place
of world dominion. However, not all European countries
sprouted empires. After the Irish adopted the potato, their population dramatically increased, as did their dependence on the tuber
as a major food staple. But then disaster struck. From 1845 to 1852, potato blight disease ravaged
the majority of Ireland’s potato crop, leading to the Irish Potato Famine, one of the deadliest famines
in world history. Over a million Irish citizens
starved to death, and 2 million more
left their homes behind. But of course, this wasn’t the end
for the potato. The crop eventually recovered, and Europe’s population,
especially the working classes, continued to increase. Aided by the influx of Irish migrants, Europe now had a large, sustainable,
and well-fed population who were capable of manning
the emerging factories that would bring about our modern world
via the Industrial Revolution. So it’s almost impossible to imagine
a world without the potato. Would the Industrial Revolution
ever have happened? Would World War II have been lost
by the Allies without this easy-to-grow crop
that fed the Allied troops? Would it even have started? When you think about it like this, many major milestones in world history
can all be at least partially attributed to the simple spud
from the Peruvian hilltops.

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100 thoughts on “History through the eyes of the potato – Leo Bear-McGuinness

  1. my father is from peru and all of that is true. when I visit there they had so many kinds of potatoes.

  2. When the rich British sent away all healthy crops from Ireland (soft r Americans, soft r, we're not pirates. It's not pronounced Aaaarrrrrland) it may or may not have inspired a revolution to gain independence from Britain. Unlike other countries that wanted to gain independence or a democracy, it did not go so well. There were set backs, stumbles, failures, but we some how got there. Unconventionally but we got there. Mostly. There's that little part that we couldn't snag which coupled with Britain and Ireland's old differences, lead to one of the most bloody times in recent history. Which stopped, but might start up again thanks to Brexit, which Northern Ireland voted not to partake in. Thanks Britain, you really like f*cking with Ireland, don't ya. At Least you can pronounce our name properly. In fact I've known Australians to say Ireland so softly that it sounds like they're saying "Island." And it's still better than "I-errr-land." Nah seriously I love America. Apart from its choice in presidents. And two party politics. And horrendous healthcare, and food portions, and college fees, and incarceration rate, and lack of kinder eggs, and it's unhealthy amount of patriotism. Thanks for reading. I didn't intend for this to be a sh*t post on the US and the U.K.

  3. I love these videos and I re watch them all them all the time 😌 make a new history of food topic like history of metal or ores or you can do history of soda

  4. History through the life of a potato

    I woke up
    I had a very hot bath
    I had a surgery to reduce my weight

    For some reason, I died.

  5. Potato contains only nutrients
    Proteins 35g
    Total fats 602g
    Total carbohydrates 753g
    Total vitamins 605g
    Total minerals 1,350g

  6. 2050:
    My sire, this year has biggest increase of obese people.

    And the assailant?

    It is the poTAT. sire.

  7. Has anyone here ever eaten potatoes raw? I often did as a child…the whole family did…when my mother was cutting them up for frying at dinnertime. A little salt on a slice and it was so good. When I mention it to others, oftentimes I get weird looks. I guess it is just a habit of poor people…whatever is around is a decent snack?

  8. Some small remarks, at 0:35 Machu Picchu ruins are show, these are at too low altitude and too warm for any ancient or modern Peruvian to attempt to grow potatoes on it, at places like Machu Picchu its agricultural terraces were used to grow chili peppers and maize (btw for the Incas both of these crops were much more prestigious than potatoes because there were less available land and too cold to grow them in the original heartland of the Inca).

    Also, at 0:54, a burial mask/idol of the Sican culture is incorrectly passed as Inca. It's understandable though because the Sican were some of the most wealthy and advanced civilizations in Pre-Columbian Peru, for this Sican art is commonly used in modern representations of the Inca Empire because arguably it even surpasses Inca art which is often much more sterile. Inca art, unlike Sican's, rarely portraits humans or gods, literally no Inca-era depictions any major Inca god has been discovered so far (we only have pre-Inca depictions), albeit conquistadors do tell of Inca gods being sculptured/depicted in some major Inca sites, probably these lost depictions were very rarely made because of religious reason and being so few in number and placed in so important distinguished sites made them very easy to be destroyed. Also, the Sican being a coastal culture didn't rely on potatoes, some of the major crops of the Sican were beans, squash, sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes aren't actually related to potatoes at all), pumpkin, etc.

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