CUP Undergraduate Research


Famous Potatoes: the Impact of Potatoes on the History of the World

Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2012

Document Type

Restricted Access Thesis


College of Theology, Arts, & Sciences



Degree Name

History, BA

First Advisor

Dr. Joel Davis


My thesis regards the impact that potatoes have had on the history of the world. Potatoes have not only had a great impact on history, they have also become intertwined with humanity to such a degree that it is difficult to imagine a world without potatoes. Potatoes have been a main food source for centuries. They were originally grown in Peru and then spread across the world through various means. They were part of the Columbian Exchange as well as being disseminated by many other large trade routes. Potatoes became widespread and then turned into a necessity for the people in Europe to survive. Potatoes created a more nutritional diet as well as creating jobs and population booms everywhere the plant was grown.

There are several specific time periods that will be discussed within the thesis in order to best exemplify the impact the potato has had on humanity. The Irish Potato famine drastically changed Europe and America. The famine happened because of a lack of biodiversity which led to a weak potato plant. This also relates to the issue of biodiversity that the potato is having in the modern day. The recent climate change as well as land practices have decreased the variety of potatoes from hundreds to dozens and people are very worried about the future. There has been a recent movement to bring back ancient types of tuberous roots.

Potatoes are used in a variety of different substances, not only as food but also as medicine and for industry. Corporations have taken over the potato market and created a corrupt system that only benefits the company selling the goods. Unnatural additives have been put into the potato making it a health concern because of its links to obesity and other major medical issues. These same corporations are genetically altering the potato and ultimately breeding out other varieties which will lead to disaster if not stopped.

Potatoes are the unsung hero of the vegetable world. They have been around for centuries and played important roles in many different cultures throughout history. Potatoes have always been a big part of my life (growing up in Idaho) and I am very excited to share this information.

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