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Does food in History matter? exploring 4th year History education students’ views on the space for food in the South African History curriculum.

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The purpose of this study is to understand the historical significance of food as a topic in school history, according to History Education students. The history curriculum is a contested space for content that is relevant to learners, and this has manifested itself recently in South Africa, with students calling for the revision of the curriculum as part of the quest for decolonisation of education. Nevertheless, there is no consensus on which content deserves to be included in the history curriculum. Acknowledging the role that food has played in the unfolding of history, this study was guided by historical significance as a conceptual framework for understanding History Education students’ views on the space for food as a topic in the South African history curriculum. The study is qualitative in nature and is situated in the interpretivist paradigm. Open-ended interviews were held with a sample of eight 4th year History Education students. The findings from the data revealed that the participants advocate for the overt inclusion of food history in the South African History curriculum, either as part of the metanarrative or as a separate topic. They justify the historical significance of food for its influence on economy, politics, migration, social cohesion, identity, and as a nutrient. The conclusion is that the History Education students use their understanding of historical significance to argue that food is central to the narrative of humanity and should therefore overtly feature as a first-order concept in the school history curriculum.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.