Food and Faith in the Early Modern World c. 1400 – c. 1700. 

This one day workshop took take place at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge on Friday 23rd November 2018.

Keynote speaker: Professor Rebecca Earle (Warwick, CAS).

View the programme here!


As the field of Food History has come into fruition in the last two decades, historians are increasingly following anthropologists in recognising that food and eating play a significant role in religious identity formation. Since through eating food literally becomes us, food is intricately connected to how we understand the body, the material world, and the functioning of the spiritual realm within this system. Historians of the early modern period have shown how eating habits and the act of eating itself can bind distinct socio-economic groups. Yet, only a handful of early-modern studies have explicitly drawn out the connections between religion and food. This period offers a particularly rich insight into the topic, as the Protestant Reformation divided the religious identities of Christian Europe, and as European expansionism necessitated moments of encounter between people of different faiths.

This one day conference accordingly aims to explore the multifaceted connections between food and religion in the early modern world, c. 1400 – c. 1700. It takes a broad geographical view, to encourage discussion of a range of religions, in accordance with a recent historical drive to recognise the global significance of historical events. Bringing together established academics and new researchers, with the hope of forging future connections and collaborations, this conference will establish food as a valuable and novel topic from which to understand early modern religious history.

The day will include a roundtable discussion by present-day religious leaders, on the importance of food and eating practices in the expression of their faith. The aim of this roundtable is to use the present to better understand the religious experience of people in the early modern period. It is also hoped that the roundtable will be useful as an opportunity for inter-faith dialogue more broadly.


Centeotl, the maize deity in Aztec mythology, as depicted in the Borgia Codex (c. 1500).

I am extremely grateful for the financial support of the George Macaulay Trevelyan Fund, the Lightfoot Fund, and of Christ’s College Cambridge.

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