Eating acquired a new political importance during the Enlightenment, as writers began to link individual diets to the strength and wealth of nations. This article examines the eighteenth-century career of a foodstuff that became emblematic of these developments: the potato. Politicians, statesmen, and philosophers across Europe enthusiastically promoted the potato as a means of strengthening the body politic. They framed this promotion within a language of choice and the individual pursuit of happiness. In so doing they laid the foundations for today's debates about how to balance personal dietary autonomy with the demands of public health. The roots of the current neoliberal insistence that healthy eating is fundamentally a matter of individual choice thus lie in the Enlightenment.

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