Saint Thomas University, Canada

Fellowship : October 2021 to June 2022

Discipline(s) : History

Pays : Canada

Research project: Frozen Food and Empire

This project explores links between empire building and frozen food from the 1890’s through the 1970’s. Beginning in the late 19th century, refrigerator ships plied the world’s oceans, bringing frozen meat from areas with ample grazing land, like Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, to protein-hungry European cities. In the decades that followed, regardless of wars and regime changes, this pattern persisted, laying key groundwork for global food systems today.

Using a long time frame and a wide geographical scope, this project makes three main contributions. Drawing on the historiographies of both food and empire, it reveals ground-level processes through which products from peripheral areas were drawn toward imperial centres. Second, by studying frozen food infrastructure, it demonstrates how prioritizing empire-building motivated technological change and how new technologies enabled empire. Finally, the research offers novel ways to understand similarities and differences between “classic” colonial empires, wartime structures like Hitler’s Greater Germany, and trade-based imperial complexes that did not involve direct geo-political control.

“Frozen Food and Empire” investigates the historical processes that underpin today’s global food market. It addresses food security and examines the roots of ongoing power imbalances between peripheral areas, where agricultural products are often produced and frozen, and metropoles, where they are typically consumed.


Born in Toronto, Canada, Julia Torrie is a Professor of History at St. Thomas University (Canada). She holds an A.M and Ph.D. from Harvard University, USA, and her research focuses broadly on the interactions of powerful and less powerful actors within constraining structures such as empires and military occupations. She has written on the social and cultural history of the Second World War and, more recently, on the history of food. Her book German Soldiers and the Occupation of France, 1940-1944 (Cambridge, 2018) uses soldiers’ diaries, letters and amateur photographs to examine the occupation of France from below. A previous monograph, “For Their Own Good”: Civilian Evacuations in Germany and France, 1939-1945 (Berghahn, 2010), compared civilian evacuations in the two countries. Notably the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Germany have funded Torrie’s research. She has published articles on wartime food history, soldier tourism and photography, the German home front, and women’s wartime roles as military auxiliaries. Today, her research focuses on the historical development of food infrastructure in war and peacetime, and its interaction with empire.



German Soldiers and the Occupation of France, 1940-1944. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

“For Their Own Good:” Civilian Evacuations in Germany and France, 1939-1945. New York: Berghahn Books, 2010, paperback 2014.

Edited book:

(with Raffael Scheck and Fabien Théofilakis) German-occupied Europe in the Second World War. London: Routledge, 2019.

Chapters in edited collections:

“Women of the Reich: German Military Auxiliaries and the Occupation of Europe.” In German-occupied Europe in the Second World War, edited by Raffael Scheck, Fabien Théofilakis, Julia Torrie. London: Routledge, 2019.

“The Home Front.” In The Oxford Illustrated History of the Third Reich, edited by Robert Gellately, 275-310. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2018.

“Visible Trophies of War: German Occupiers’ Photographic Perceptions of France, 1940-44.” In The Ethics of Seeing: 20th Century German Documentary Photography Reconsidered, edited by Jennifer Evans et al., 108-37. New York: Berghahn Books, 2018.

Co-authored with Nathan Stoltzfus, “Rosenstrasse.” In The Holocaust: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection, edited by Paul R. Bartrop and Michael Dickerman, Vol. 2, 551-53. New York: ABC-Clio, 2017.

“The Possibilities of Protest in the Third Reich: The Witten Demonstration in Context.” In Protest in Hitler’s National Community, edited by Nathan Stoltzfus, 76-105. New York: Berghahn Books, 2015.

“Transnational History and Civilian Evacuations: Broadening the Approach.” In Evakuierungen im Europa der Weltkriege – Les évacuations dans l’Europe des guerres mondiales – Evacuations in World War Europe, edited by Fabian Lemmes et al., 250-65. Berlin: Metropol, 2014.

Article on “Collaboration.” In Encyclopedia of the Modern World, vol. 2, edited by Peter N. Stearns, 233-235. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

“Preservation by Dispersion: Civilian Evacuations and the City in Germany and France, 1939-45.” In Endangered Cities: Military Power and Urban Societies in the Era of the World Wars, edited by Roger Chickering and Marcus Funck, 47-62. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2004.


Le séminaire de résidence de Julia Torrie a eu lieu le lundi 7 février 2022 : La nourriture congelée et les empires : Une vue d'ensemble

Suggestions de la semaine :

Film : L'aile ou la cuisse - réalisé par Claude Zidi, 1976

Charles Duchemin, le directeur d'un guide gastronomique qui vient d'être élu à l'Académie Française, se trouve un adversaire de taille en la personne de Jacques Tricatel, le PDG d'une chaîne de restaurants. Son fils Gérard anime en cachette une petite troupe de cirque.

Lecture : Trentmann, Frank. Empire of Things: How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First. New York: Harper Perennial, 2017.

Cet ouvrage vaste et varié propose une histoire du monde du XVe siècle à nos jours à travers les objets.  En explorant le commerce, l'échange et la propriété au sein et au-delà des réseaux impériaux, Frank Trentmann retrace les forces historiques qui ont façonné la consommation.  Ce livre explique comment la consommation est devenue un élément central de la vie de millions de personnes et explore les changements qui l'accompagnent dans des concepts tels que la richesse ou le confort.  Des vêtements à la nourriture en passant par l'ameublement et les voitures, ainsi que des pratiques comme le shopping et la publicité, Trentmann montre comment la possession d'objets a façonné nos habitudes et nos routines, nos relations entre nous, nos maisons, notre travail et notre environnement.


Image :  From: Pawlowski, Auguste. “L’entrepôt frigorifique du port de La Pallice, près de La Rochelle.” Le Génie civil 92, no. 26 (juin 1928): 639