Journal of Global History


The King's Christmas pudding: globalization, recipes, and the commodities of empire*

Kaori O’Connora1

a1 Department of Anthropology, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK E-mail:


Food globalization has been in train for some ten millennia, driven by, and driving, war, trade, imperialism, colonialism, and culture. Within economic history, the dominant discipline in the study of globalization, only the first four are dealt with in any depth, invariably focusing on production and the supply side. By contrast, there have been relatively few studies of globalization in terms of culture, consumption, and the demand side, resulting in an incomplete understanding of the ways in which material life, cultural values, and political imperatives interact in a global context. These dynamics are examined in this anthropological account of culture and commerce in Britain and the empire in the interwar years, focusing on a dish that assumed tremendous symbolic and economic importance – the King's Christmas pudding

Kaori O'Connor (BA Reed College; BLitt Oxford; PhD London), is a research fellow in the Department of Anthropology, University College London. She has published on material culture, heritage, social processes, identity, and the anthropology of food, including articles on Welsh laverbread, tapioca-cassava, and the Hawaiian luau, as well as The English breakfast: the biography of a national meal (2006).


* I am grateful to the editors of this journal and their anonymous reviewers for their comments on earlier drafts of this article. My thanks also go to the staff of the library of the Institute for Commonwealth Studies, University of London and of the National Archives, where Sir Stephen Tallents' papers relating to the Empire Marketing Board are held, and to the staff of the Museum of London Docklands, depository for the Sainsbury Archive, containing the records of J. Sainsbury & Company, for all their assistance with my research.