Potatoes ‘reduced conflict’ in Europe, study claims

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The introduction of potatoes helped to keep the peace across Europe for centuries, an economic report has claimed.

A study examining the region between 1400 and 1900 found that the introduction of the vegetable from South America ‘permanently reduced conflict’ for about 200 years.

Potato crops yielded more calories per acre, provided food for poorer people and boosted farm efficiency prompting higher wages, according to experts from Harvard, Colorado and Northwestern universities. 

The introduction of potatoes helped to keep the peace across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa for centuries, an economic report has claimed. Workers are pictured on a British potato farm in 1943

The introduction of potatoes helped to keep the peace across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa for centuries, an economic report has claimed. Workers are pictured on a British potato farm in 1943

Higher salaries meant that soldiers commanded higher pay, increasing the financial cost of war, the study suggested.

Economists based their research on ‘battles in Europe, the Near East and North Africa’ involving 32 or more deaths in the 500 years between 1400 and 1900.

While there were significant conflicts, including the French Revolution, during this period, the report, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, said: ‘We find that the introduction of potatoes permanently reduced conflict for roughly two centuries. The results are driven by a reduction in civil conflicts.’

Potatoes were brought to Ireland in 1589 by Sir Walter Raleigh

Potatoes were brought to Ireland in 1589 by Sir Walter Raleigh

Potatoes were brought to Ireland in 1589 by Sir Walter Raleigh

According to The Times, researchers compared areas where potatoes were grown to regions where Old World crops such as wheat were still the staple once the vegetable had become widely adopted in 1700.

It found that peasants in potato-growing areas were less inclined to join uprisings.

Potatoes are believed to have been carried back to Europe after Spanish Conquistadors conquered Peru in 1536.

They were being cultivated along the Biscay coast of northern Spain by the families of Basque sailors by the end of the 16th century.

The vegetable was brought to Ireland in 1589 by Sir Walter Raleigh and cultivated on 40,000 acres of land near Cork and over the next four decades potatoes grew in popularity across the rest of Europe.

It is thought the Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate the vegetable between around 8,000 BC and 5,000 BC. 





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