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Response to Review no. 652

I thank Professor Walter warmly for a generous, perceptive review.

My book took ten years to write, but even then I wish that I had spent two years longer on it. My main criticism of myself centres on my failure to underline strongly enough in my conclusion what is, for economic historians at least, its most significant observation, namely, that various methods of handling food between 1500 and 1760 actually increased supplies. Historians have focused on the productivity of cereals that were growing in the fields. My book draws attention to successes in preserving food for longer periods (instead of letting it go to waste), by pickling, preserving with sugar and by excluding air from cooked food with solidified butter. The list of foods in favour also lengthened, and the flavour of some hitherto less tasty ones, noticeably among vegetables and fruit, was refined; while the diverse qualities and hence diversified prices of some foods like butter and cheese, stimulated producers. The total supply of acceptable food was increased, and some foods became affordable to more people.

These developments were significant in meeting demand from a rising population.