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Published on Jan 21, 2015
Food Studies at SOAS http://www.soas.ac.uk/foodstudies/ This SOAS Food Studies Centre Distinguished Lecture titled "How Grains Domesticated Us" was given by James C. Scott (Sterling Professor of Political Science and Professor of Anthropology and Co-Director of the Agrarian Studies Program, Yale University) on 11 December 2014.
How is it that homo sapiens came, only in the last 5% of its long career on the planet, to live in concentrated heaps of people, grain, and domesticated animals and, later, governed by units we call states?
How were these earliest structured and governed? How did they persist (or perish) and how did they change the landscape and people they controlled? It is surely striking that virtually all classical states were based on grain, including millets. History records no banana, cassava, sago, or sweet potato states. Why are the grassy grain crops---typically barley, rye, wheat, rice, maze, and millets---so closely associated with the earliest states? My guess is that only grains are suited to concentrated production, tax assessment, cadastral surveys, storage, and rationing.