Ines Prodöhl’s Globalizing the Soybean: Fat, Feed, and Sometimes Food, c. 1900-1950 (Routledge, 2023) is a history of how, why, and where the soybean became a critical ingredient in industry and agriculture in the first half of the twentieth century. Focusing on Japanese-dominated Manchuria, Germany, and the United States, Prodöhl shows that the soybean was a serendipitous solution to numerous and varied crises from the beginning of the century into the post-WWII decades. This story of imperialism, globalization, and technology begins in northeast China, the world’s soy cultivation center until the 1940s. It takes us to Germany, the number one importer of soybeans in the interwar period, and illuminates the various ways in which soy was integrated into the economy especially after the end of WWI as both an invaluable oilseed for industry and a source of protein-rich fodder for agriculture. Finally, Prodöhl explores how the United States first adopted the soybean mostly as a solution to overtaxed soils. Mixing economic, ecological, political, and technological/scientific history with a keen sense of the materiality of soy as a global product, Globalizing the Soybean is an accessible and enlightening book that will appeal to multiple audiences.
This book is available open access here.
This episode was recorded in person in the studios of Media City Bergen with technical assistance from Frode Ims.
Nathan Hopson is an associate professor of Japanese language and history in the University of Bergen's Department of Foreign Languages.