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Oceans of Grain: How American Wheat Remade the World

Conflicts over the paths traveled by grain transformed the balance of world power. Early in the nineteenth century, imperial Russia fed Europe through the port of Odessa. But during the US Civil War, America created grain corridors to feed Union troops, facilitating postwar exports. As these exports flooded across the Atlantic, European food prices plummeted. Cheap foreign grain helped spur the rise of Germany and Italy, the decline of the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, and Europe’s scramble for empire. Contests over this foreign grain contributed to World War I and the Russian Revolution.

Date & Time

Monday
Mar. 28, 2022
4:00pm – 5:30pm ET

Overview

Conflicts over the paths traveled by grain transformed the balance of world power. Early in the nineteenth century, imperial Russia fed Europe through the port of Odessa. But during the US Civil War, America created grain corridors to feed Union troops, facilitating postwar exports. As these exports flooded across the Atlantic, European food prices plummeted. Cheap foreign grain helped spur the rise of Germany and Italy, the decline of the Habsburgs and the Ottomans, and Europe’s scramble for empire. Contests over this foreign grain contributed to World War I and the Russian Revolution.

Scott Reynolds Nelson is the Georgia Athletic Association Professor of the Humanities at the University of Georgia and was a Guggenheim fellow in 2019. His book Steel Drivin’ Man (2006), about the life and legend of John Henry won four national awards including the Merle Curti Prize for best book in US history. He has written widely on the history of capitalism including A Nation of Deadbeats (2012), an international history of US financial crises.

The Washington History Seminar is co-chaired by Eric Arnesen (George Washington University and the National History Center) and Christian Ostermann (Woodrow Wilson Center) and is organized jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Woodrow Wilson Center's History and Public Policy Program. It meets weekly during the academic year. The seminar thanks its anonymous individual donors and institutional partners (the George Washington University History Department and the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest) for their continued support.

Panelists

Heather Cox Richardson

Heather Cox Richardson

Professor of History, Boston College
Stephanie McCurry

Stephanie McCurry

R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History in Honor of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Columbia University

Hosted By

History and Public Policy Program

The History and Public Policy Program makes public the primary source record of 20th and 21st century international history from repositories around the world, facilitates scholarship based on those records, and uses these materials to provide context for classroom, public, and policy debates on global affairs.  Read more

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