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Home arrow Political science arrow From Hunger to Malnutrition: The Political Economy of Scientific Knowledge in Europe, 1918-1960


Home Economics and Schools of Domestic Science

In order to spread scientific knowledge about nutrition and diet, and to change the dietary habits of the population, so-called domestic science or home economics schools, largely attended by young women, provided an excellent opportunity for teaching dietetics. In many European countries, home economics were included in general education schemes. Since the school curriculum was separated according to sex, girls were the targets of these new courses, which contained information about food and diet and also household economy and cooking.

The pupil, in learning how to purchase and prepare attractive meals for her future family, can also be taught the elements of nutritional science, with particular reference to the relative price and nutritive value of foodstuffs. It is often said that maternal ignorance is the main cause of malnutrition in children.16

In their approach to the subject, Burnet and Aykroyd considered that it was not strictly true, for no amount of knowledge and skill on the part of housewives made it possible to purchase a satisfactory diet when income was insufficient. However, they assumed that the inefficiency of housewives was an important contributing factor in producing malnutrition in the children of the very poor and unemployed. Therefore, the satisfactory education of women in domestic science, including dietetics, cooking and marketing was considered an important public health activity.

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