Food history is an interdisciplinary field that examines the history of food, and the cultural, economic, environmental, and sociological impacts of food. Food history is considered distinct from the more traditional field of culinary history, which focuses on the origin and recreation of specific recipes. Food historians look at food as one of the most important elements of cultures, reflecting the social and economic structure of society. Food history is a new discipline, considered until recently a fringe discipline.
The first journal in the field, Petits Propos Culinaires was launched in 1979 and the first conference on the subject was the Food & History is a multilingual (French, English, German, Italian and Spanish) scientific journal that has been published since 2003. Food & History is the biannual scientific review of the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food (IEHCA) based in Tours. It publishes papers about the history and culture of food.
The review Food & History is the biannual scientific review of the Institut Europeen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation / European Institute for the History and Culture of Food (IEHCA) in Tours, France. Founded in 2003, it is the first journal in Europe, both in its vocation and concept, specialised in the specific field of food history. Food & History aims at presenting, promoting and diffusing research that focuses on alimentation from an historical and/or cultural perspective.
The journal studies food history (from prehistory to the present), food archaeology, and food culture from different points of view. It embraces social, economic, religious, political, agronomical, and cultural aspects of food and nutrition. It deals at the same time with questions of food consumption, production and distribution, with alimentation theories and practices (medical aspects included), with food-related paraphernalia and infrastructures, as well as with culinary practices, gastronomy, and restaurants.
Being positioned at the cross-roads of the humanities and social sciences, the review deliberately promotes interdisciplinary research approaches. Although most contributions are concerned with European food history, the journal principally also welcomes articles on other food cultures. Food & History is a fully-fledged academic journal which applies the usual methodical instruments for assessing incoming articles, i. e. a double-blind reviewing process by external referees, recruited from a large and ever-growing intercontinental pool of experts in the field of social and cultural food studies.
Food & History belongs to a decreasing spectrum of journals which openly expresses its European and international character by accepting manuscripts in five European languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian, and German). Food & History gains official recognition from the Institut des Sciences Humaines et Sociales of the CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and is indexed by the European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH) of the European Science Foundation (History category B).
Food & History can be published thanks to the financial support from the Ministere de l’Education nationale, Ministere de l’enseignement superieur et de la recherche, Universite Francois-Rabelais de Tours, and the Conseil Regional du Centre.  History Food and History was created by a network of academic researchers and students, with the help of the French Ministry for National Education and the University of Tours. The journal is sustained by the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and is cited by the European Science Foundation in its European Reference Index for the Humanities (ERIH).
The launch of Food & History was on the one hand a logical fruit of the foundation of the European Institute for the History of Food in December 2000 in Strasbourg (redefined in 2005 as European Institute for the History and Culture of Food), and on the other hand a clear manifestation of the gradual breakthrough of social and cultural food studies as an independent field of research during the first decades of the 21st century.
The emergence of this sub-discipline had, of course, been anticipated in an impressive record of food-related research, conducted by scholars from adjacent fields, such as e.g. economic history, agricultural history, history of the body etc. However, the scholars behind these pioneering works were generally operating on a rather individual base and they would not have defined themselves as food historians.
It was only with the foundation of the journal Food and Foodways in 1986 and of the International Commission for Research into European Food History (ICFREH) by Hans-Jurgen Teuteberg in Munster 1989 that a first infrastructural framework for social and cultural food studies was provided.
In the decades around the turn of the century, a lot of new food-related research initiatives became visible, thus demonstrating the vitality of this research area. In 1997, the Department of History at the University of Adelaide established a Research Centre for the History of Food and Drink. In 2001, a new web-journal The Anthropology of Food was launched and in 2004 the American Association for the Study of Food and Society re-launched a journal, entitled Food, Culture and Society.
Around the turn of the century, due to – amongst others – new appointments in the editorial board, the research interest of the journal Food and Foodways changed in a two-fold sense: on the one hand “it shifted away from familiar disciplines (history, sociology, ethnology) toward ‘unexpected’ones (communication sciences, linguistics, tourism)”, on the other hand it became increasingly dominated by Anglo-Saxon input, especially from scholars from the USA, whereas the influence of the traditional French research schools significantly diminished.
Some scholars argue that this ‘exotic’ publication strategy of Food and Foodways may have led to the launch of the new food history journal Food & History. Be that as it may, it was from the very start of the European Institute for the History of Food obvious that this new Europe-wide food research initiative should be accordingly accompanied by the launch of a new publication platform. And so happened: three years after its foundation, the IEHA announced the introduction of a new journal, Food & History, which still appears under the aegis of IEHCA, represented by its director Francis Chevrier (series editor).
It started with a 7-persons board, consisting of four historians, one sinologist, one sociologist and Secretary Christophe Marion. As from volume 4. 2 (publication year 2006), the editorial board was almost doubled, with the addition of a philologist, archaeologist, classicist, and three historians. After a transition period and the appointment of a new secretary in 2007, the journal has been increasingly professionalised, amongst others by the introduction of a new uniform style sheet (link) and by the application of a comprehensive peer reviewing system (starting with volume 5. 1).
These assessments are usually carried out on an entirely honorary base. However, by way of acknowledgement, the names of external referees are regularly published, usually in the last issue of each volume. Another development that bears witness of the increasing professionalisation of the journal was the change in its direction. During the initial period, Massimo Montanari had served as editor in chief, but in 2008 the editorial board declared itself openly in favour of a new dual leading structure, which rotates among the board members, giving each tandem a triennial turn (which is once renewable for another turn of three years).
During a transitional year (2009), Montanari was accompanied by Allen Grieco and Peter Scholliers, who in the subsequent year took over the torch of the journals direction. Yet another step towards further professionalisation was the introduction of a group of corresponding members as from 2010, with the aim to represent the journal’s interests in different world regions and to establish a permanent flow of food research related information between these regions and the journal’s “headquarters”.