The food supply has been a formative space in the creation and exercise of centralized governing authority in Western Europe. Similar to warmaking, bureaucratization or market integration, governing agriculture has had a constitutive importance to modern European politics. One goal of this essay is to elucidate the often forgotten agrarian underpinnings of European modernity. A concurrent goal is to investigate, through a set of detailed empirical cases, some of the decisive strategic configurations through which ‘the agrarian’ and ‘the political’ have been conjoined across a history that spans a period of time from the Absolutist State to the European Union. Specifically, the essay interrogates how the management of the food supply and agrarian life were central to the projects of state formation, urban policing, imperial geopolitics, and Europe’s postwar reconstruction.

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