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The twentieth century witnessed mounting anxiety about what we eat.  In the western world obesity rates rose, the popularity of ‘junk food’ raised concerns about dietary health, and constant food scares caused deep unease. Partly in response to such problems, the post-war period saw rising interest in organic food, vegetarian diets and health foods. The changing epidemiological structure of western societies meant that people were more likely to live longer but suffer from chronic illness such as diabetes and heart disease linked by medical scientists to poor dietary choices. This workshop will explore anxieties that surrounded food in twentieth-century Britain and Ireland. It asks: In what ways were diet, health and illness linked? To what extent was nutritional advice scientifically objective or moralising in nature? How did consumers interpret the diverse messages emanating from medical scientists and other dietary advisors? In what ways did new medical discourses on ideal weight stigmatise the obese? Did the new diets of an increasingly multicultural society raise health concerns? And how much attention did consumers and patients actually pay to changing warnings about over-eating and negative nutrition?

A keynote address will be delivered by Dr Matthew Smith, University of Strathclyde.

Download Programme here

This Wellcome Trust-sponsored event is organised by Dr Ian Miller (Ulster University) and Dr Bryce Evans (Liverpool Hope University). The event is free but please register before by contacting


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Friday 7 April

10am to 5pm


Ian Miller