cod. 1012161

Academic year 2024/25
1° year of course - Second semester
Academic discipline
Storia del diritto medievale e moderno (IUS/19)
Discipline storico-giuridiche, internazionalistiche, comparatistiche e politiche
Type of training activity
36 hours
of face-to-face activities
6 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

Aims of this course will be to
- Give to the students a general overview of global food history
- Point out the main juridical issues of global food history
- Acknowledge the material and symbolic importance of food in the establishment of public powers
- Look into the use of food as a central instrument for identity-building


There’s no formal pre-requisite

Course unit content

The course is based on four parts, reflecting different ages of human history.
The first part concerns the legal history of food in the Antiquity. We will discuss the norms about food included in the legal texts of some of the most important early civilizations, from the prescriptions concerning the production of wheat, olive oil and milk in the Hammurabi code, to biblical precepts of the Torah. After a general description of the norms concerning food included in the different bodies of Ancient Greek Law, we’ll focus on Roman Law, with special reference to the problems concerning food largitions, as well as to the regulation of banquets. In this way, we will explore the importance of nourishment and conviviality in creating and strengthening social bonds at all levels of ancient societies, demonstrating how food was often a key factor of political life.
The second part of the course will concern the Medieval Age. Following the evolution of food law in these times will naturally lead to discuss the dietary regulations prescribed by canon law, as presented in a wide variety of sources, such as patristic texts, monastic rules, conciliar and pontifical legislation, as well as handbooks for confessors.
In relation to the Medieval centuries we will focus also on a second major topic: the statutory regulations concerning the production and the commercialization of food enacted both by the Italian Comuni and by the Guilds of Arts and Crafts that operated within the same Comuni. This will allow us to reflect on the progressive implementation of the first important legal instruments aimed to guarantee food safety.
The third part of the course concerns the Modern Age, from the great geographic discoveries to the industrial revolution. The main topics discussed in relation to those centuries (1500-1899) are the legal reactions to the introduction of new kinds of food as an effect of the colonial expansion, as well as the increasing role of the modern State in relation to food, contrasting famines and establishing monopolies on specific products (for example, salt).
The fourth and last part of the course will revolve around the 20th and the 21st centuries, focusing in particular of the effects of industrial agriculture and mass farming. The consequences of these phenomenons will be discussed in relation to the problems of environmental degredation, expecially in the south of the world, as well as of the destruction of traditional food cultures.

Full programme

18 lessons of two hours each
1. A General Introduction to Historical Food Studies: Sources and Methods
2. The Ancient Agricultural Revolution
3. Food in the Ancient Civilizations: Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India
4. Food in the Cultures of the Classical World: Greeks and Romans
5. Food-related issue in Roman Law: an Overview
6. Food in the Great Religious Cultures of the Early Middle Ages: Latin Christendom, Byzantium and Islam
7. Food in Canon Law
8. The Medieval Warm Period: how Evolutions in Agriculture Changed the World
9. Food and Food Statutes in the Medieval Comuni
10. The Columbian Exchange: towards a Global Food Culture
11. The Impact of the Reformation on Food Culture
12. Food and the Rise of the Modern State
13. Food in the Age of the Revolutions
14. Food, Law and Science in the Age of Positivism
15. Food culture in a Rapidly Changing World: 1900-1945
16. Food in the post War World
17. Food and Globalization
18. The Future of Food


Linda Civitiello, Cuisine and Culture. A History of Food and People, Hoboken 2008, pp. 1-143, 173-205, 241-269, 301-334 (236 pp.)

Teaching methods

The course is structured around a series of frontal lessons that aim to covey a general framework of the cultural history of food. Each lesson will be given using powerpoint presentations and organized to enhance an active and propositive participation from all students through innovative teaching IT tools that are alternatives to frontal lessons and, above all, capable of intercepting, on the one hand, the epistemic specificity of the subject and, on the other hand, the students' preferential learning methods.
At the same time, students will be involved in a series of supplementary teaching exercises concerning specific juridical problems of great cultural significance and of particular relevance for the present. These problems will be discussed on the basis of the action learning methods, so as to encourage the participation of each student, individually or as part of small groups which will interact in cooperative or competitive learning activities.
To allow students to have a direct and personal experience of the different realities discusses in our classes, they will be offered the possibility to participate to cultural visits to local museums and other cultural institutions active on these subjects.

To help candidates to prepare for the exam, in the last lesson we’ll discuss together the topics that will be suject of examination

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral exam with a pre-determined list of questions. The exam will consist in three questions on specific topics discussed during our lessons. Each answer will be evaluated on a scale from 0 to 10, assessing the possess of the fundamental notions of this subject, the reasoning and contextualizing abilities and the property of language of each student. The final mark will be given in thirtieths.

Other information

All lessons will be video-recorded and shared via Elly, to allow usually attending students who missed some lessons to catch up.