HUMN 3039 Food: A Cultural History

Credit Points 10

Legacy Code 102305

Coordinator Gregory Barton Opens in new window

Description The modern world seems obsessed by food. This subject will look at the historical development of sources of food, from archaeological evidence of the earliest human meals through the emergence of agriculture and its scientific modifications to the physical and cultural evidence of technological changes in methods of preservation, preparation, cooking and eating various foods. We will examine the globalisation of food and the varieties of historical cuisines around the world. Food is also integral to our social, religious and cultural lives and the subject will investigate the historical origins of some of these customs. Students will have the opportunity to range across time and place (through readings, recipes and field trips) to explore foods that are part of their cultural heritage - or feasts that they wish they could have eaten from centuries long past.

School Humanities & Comm Arts

Discipline History

Student Contribution Band HECS Band 4 10cp

Check your fees via the Fees page.

Level Undergraduate Level 3 subject


Successful completion of 60 credit points in the currently enrolled program.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:

  1. Identify a selection of places and objects relating to food production and eating in global history¬¬
  2. Explain the historical and cultural significance of certain foods
  3. Investigate the historical and cultural origins of a particular dish (recipe)
  4. Construct an evidence based argument or narrative of the results of an investigation into the historical and cultural factors associated with particular foods.

Subject Content

Content will include a selection from the following topics:

  1. Archaeological evidence of food origins and cooking methods 
  2. Trade and wealth - salt, pepper, sugar, spices 
  3. Plants on the move 
  4. Keeping it longer - air dried to freeze dried 
  5. Pots, Pans and Microwaves 
  6. Fingers, forks or chopsticks 
  7. Indigenous Australian foods 
  8. Australian colonial eating 
  9. Portable foods – take-aways ancient and modern 
  10. Rations - convicts, military and the home front 
  11. Food, health and healing 
  12. Religious practice and foods 
  13. Recipes, measurements and instruction manuals 
  14. Class and custom - manners, etiquette and tradition 
  15. Upstairs, downstairs - kitchens great and small 
  16. Food Wars 
  17. Global cuisine traditions.


The following table summarises the standard assessment tasks for this subject. Please note this is a guide only. Assessment tasks are regularly updated, where there is a difference your Learning Guide takes precedence.

Type Length Percent Threshold Individual/Group Task
Presentation 1 written assignment and presentation, total 800 words 30 N Individual
Quiz Three quizzes, total 800 words 30 N Individual
Report 2500 words 40 N Individual