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Palatable Bugs for the Victorians: Entomophagy, Class and Colonialism in Vincent M. Holt’s Why Not Eat Insects?

Duché, Elodie ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2677-6854 (2023) Palatable Bugs for the Victorians: Entomophagy, Class and Colonialism in Vincent M. Holt’s Why Not Eat Insects? Journal of Victorian Culture. (In Press)

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Abstract

Entomologists and proponents of insect food have often seen in Vincent M. Holt’s Why Not Eat Insects? (London: Field & Tuer, 1885) the work of a precursor. Holt’s plea to consume insects in Victorian Britain, as an aid to address food poverty and diversify Western diets, certainly resonates with the environmental and social predicaments of the twenty-first century. However, the text and the context of this publication have not been fully examined. The book has attracted comparatively little attention from historians who are yet to unravel why and how Holt could raise the very question ‘why not?’ This article aims to bridge this gap, with a close reading of the sources and the language deployed by Holt, who heavily relied on European travel writings to make his case. Relocating Why Not Eat Insects? in this context throws into relief how issues of class and colonialism were constitutive of a wider discussion about eating insects in English-speaking prints in the nineteenth century. To explore this, the article also investigates responses from readers in the 1880s and 1890s, through reviews published in the British Isles, Australia, and the United States. Ultimately, examining these aspects alerts us to the dangers of celebrating Holt as a pioneer of insect food and an inspiration for the twenty-first century, for Holt partook in what Lisa Heldke terms ‘cultural food colonialism’, which we are at risk of reproducing when using his text uncritically and regardless of its social and colonial context.

Item Type: Article
Status: In Press
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D901 Europe (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain > DA550 Victorian era, 1837-1901
D History General and Old World > DC France
D History General and Old World > DU Oceania (South Seas)
E History America > E11 America (General)
E History America > E151 United States (General)
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Q Science > QL Zoology
S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
School/Department: School of Humanities
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/7300

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