Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • Baked or fried,

  • boiled or roasted,

  • as chips or fries.

  • At some point in your life, you've probably eaten a potato.

  • Delicious, for sure,

  • but the fact is potatoes have played a much more significant role in our history

  • than just that of the dietary staple we have come to know and love today.

  • Without the potato,

  • our modern civilization might not exist at all.

  • 8,000 years ago in South America, high atop the Andes,

  • ancient Peruvians were the first to cultivate the potato.

  • Containing high levels of proteins and carbohydrates,

  • as well as essential fats, vitamins and minerals,

  • potatoes were the perfect food source to fuel a large Incan working class

  • as they built and farmed their terraced fields,

  • mined the Rocky Mountains,

  • and created the sophisticated civilization of the great Incan Empire.

  • But considering how vital they were to the Incan people,

  • when Spanish sailors returning from the Andes

  • first brought potatoes to Europe,

  • the spuds were duds.

  • Europeans simply didn't want to eat

  • what they considered dull and tasteless oddities from a strange new land,

  • too closely related to the deadly nightshade plant

  • belladonna for comfort.

  • So instead of consuming them, they used potatoes as decorative garden plants.

  • More than 200 years would pass before the potato caught on

  • as a major food source throughout Europe,

  • though even then,

  • it was predominantly eaten by the lower classes.

  • However, beginning around 1750,

  • and thanks at least in part

  • to the wide availability of inexpensive and nutritious potatoes,

  • European peasants with greater food security

  • no longer found themselves at the mercy of the regularly occurring grain famines of the time

  • and so their populations steadily grew.

  • As a result, the British, Dutch and German Empires

  • rose on the backs of the growing groups of farmers, laborers, and soldiers,

  • thus lifting the West to its place of world dominion.

  • However, not all European countries sprouted empires.

  • After the Irish adopted the potato,

  • their population dramatically increased,

  • as did their dependence on the tuber as a major food staple.

  • But then disaster struck.

  • From 1845 to 1852,

  • potato blight disease ravaged the majority of Ireland's potato crop,

  • leading to the Irish Potato Famine,

  • one of the deadliest famines in world history.

  • Over a million Irish citizens starved to death,

  • and 2 million more left their homes behind.

  • But of course, this wasn't the end for the potato.

  • The crop eventually recovered,

  • and Europe's population, especially the working classes,

  • continued to increase.

  • Aided by the influx of Irish migrants,

  • Europe now had a large, sustainable, and well-fed population

  • who were capable of manning the emerging factories

  • that would bring about our modern world via the Industrial Revolution.

  • So it's almost impossible to imagine a world without the potato.

  • Would the Industrial Revolution ever have happened?

  • Would World War II have been lost by the Allies

  • without this easy-to-grow crop that fed the Allied troops

  • Would it even have started?

  • When you think about it like this,

  • many major milestones in world history can all be at least partially attributed

  • to the simple spud from the Peruvian hilltops.

Baked or fried,

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B2 US TED-Ed potato irish crop europe world history

【TED-Ed】History through the eyes of the potato - Leo Bear-McGuinness

  • 1742 157
    稲葉白兎 posted on 2016/01/09
Video vocabulary