Versatile and cheap: A global history of soy in the first half of the twentieth century

  • Prodöhl I
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Abstract

This article traces the complex and shifting organization of soy's production and consumption from Northeast China to Europe and the United States. It focuses on a set of national and transnational actors with differing interests in the global and national spread of soybeans. The combination of these actors in certain spatiotemporal contexts enabled a fundamental change in soy from an Asian to an American cash crop. At the beginning of the twentieth century, soy rapidly became Northeast China's cash crop, owing to steadily increasing Western demand. However, the versatility of soy – and soy oil in particular – offered a highly successful response to the agricultural and industrial challenges that the United States faced during the Great Depression and the Second World War. By the end of the war, American farmers in the Midwest cultivated more soybeans than their Chinese counterparts.

Author-supplied keywords

  • China
  • Germany
  • Great Depression
  • Second World War
  • Soybeans
  • United States

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Authors

  • Ines Prodöhl

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