Fats of the land: New histories of agricultural oils

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Department of Social Sciences


Interest in agricultural oils has grown dramatically in recent years for a variety of reasons, as the participants detail below: popular attention to the health benefits or perils of food oils, concerns about the environmental and social disruptions associated with various kinds of oil production, and the ways oil histories expose tensions between local biologies and global markets and sug-gest new ways to think about commodity chains. Agricultural oils, in short, suggest a kind of hidden history of agriculture. Although the lubricants and paints and varnishes and other industrial prod-ucts discussed below are not often seen as farm products, it is clear from what follows that in their origins, refinement, distribution, and consumption and use, they are agricultural, and therefore worthy subjects for agricultural histo-ry. Which is a reminder, perhaps, that agricultural history can be found almost anywhere, and that one of the important functions of Agricultural History and the Agricultural History Society is to help convene such conversations across geographical, temporal, and methodological lines. The roundtable was conducted by email from February to November 2018, and is reproduced below with light editing, followed by a bibliography of works cited.

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© 2019 Agricultural History Society. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.3098/ah.2019.093.3.520

Publication Title

Agricultural History