Corporeal Economies

Work and Waste in Nineteenth-Century Constructions of Alimentation
  • Joyce L. Huff

Abstract

In British and American culture today, the goal of dietary regimen is generally the elimination of body fat. But the science that underpins the regulation of our dietary intake, with the accompanying stigma that it attaches to fat, was not initially created in response to any real or imagined need to reduce the waistlines of the “well-fed classes:”1 This science had its roots in the 1860s, when medical officers appointed by the British government sought to eliminate the problem of malnutrition and the diseases it fostered among the poor of England. The public relief system by which food was distributed to the unemployed was badly in need of reform, but, as paupers were maintained at government expense, policymakers were working under economic constraints imposed from above. The problem in institutional diet reform was, as prison inspector Sir William Guy argued, how to feed the inmates of institutions without “overburdening” the public with the cost.2

Keywords

Sugar Combustion Starch Urea Europe 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Edward Smith, The Present State of the Dietary Question (London: Walton and Maberly, 1864), 12–13.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    William Augustus Guy, On Sufficient and Insufficient Dietaries with Special Reference to the Dietaries of Prisoners (London: Harrison, 1863), 240.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Edward Smith, Dietaries for the Inmates of Workhouses: A Report to the President of the Poor Law Board (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1866), 25.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    “The Dietary Question,” Review of The Present State of the Dietary Question by Edward Smith, The Lancet (22 October 1864), 469.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    William Wadd, Comments on Corpulency and Lineaments of Leanness (London: Ebers, 1829), 13.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    “Practical Dietaries,” Review of Practical Dietary for Families, Schools and the Labouring Classes by Edward Smith, The Lancet (24 December 1864), 722.Google Scholar
  7. 14.
    James Hinton, “Health,” Cornhill Magazine (March 1861), 337.Google Scholar
  8. 15.
    Francis T. Bond, “Bodily Work and Waste,” The Popular Science Review, 3 (1863), 151.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    Thomas King Chambers, “On Corpulence [part 21,” The Lancet (11 May 1850), 559.Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    Edwin Lankester, Guide to the Food Collection in the South Kensington Museum (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1859), 5.Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter (NewYork: Routledge, 1993).Google Scholar
  12. 40.
    Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger (London:Ark, 1984), 36.Google Scholar
  13. 46.
    Thomas King Chambers,“On Corpulence [part 1],” The Lancet (4 May 1850), 524.Google Scholar
  14. 47.
    Ibid., [part 2], 559.Google Scholar
  15. 48.
    Ibid., [part 1], 524.Google Scholar
  16. 49.
    Ibid., [part 2], 558.Google Scholar
  17. 50.
    Hinton, “Food,” 462.Google Scholar
  18. 51.
    William Banting, A Letter on Corpulence, third American edition (New York: Harper, 1864), 9. See also my “A ‘Horror of Corpulence’: Bantingism and Nineteenth-Century Fat-phobia,” in Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness andTransgression, Jana Evans Braziel and Kathleen LeBesco, eds. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  19. 52.
    William Banting, A Letter on Corpulence, fourth American edition (New York: Mohun and Ebbs, 1865), 28.Google Scholar
  20. 56.
    Edward Smith, Practical Dietary for Families, Schools and the Labouring Classes (London:Walton and Maberly, 1864), 577.Google Scholar
  21. 59.
    Michel Foucault, “The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century,” in Power/Knowledge, trans. Colin Gordon (NewYork: Pantheon, 1977).Google Scholar
  22. 63.
    William Banting, A Letter on Corpulence, fourth edition (London: Harrison, 1869), xi.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Christopher E. Forth and Ana Carden-Coyne 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joyce L. Huff

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