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Ken Albala

Professor of History, Director of Food Studies


Phone: 209.946.2922
Email: kalbala@pacific.edu

Office Hours

Wendell Phillips Center, Rm. 240


PhD, Columbia University, 1993

MA, Yale University, 1987

BA, George Washington University, 1986

Curriculum Vitae 

Teaching Philosophy

I think the classroom should be fun and exciting and since I love telling stories, much of our time is spent doing just that, as well as discussing important events, individuals and long-term historical processes. We also read original sources and view contemporary images, learning how history is always a matter of interpretation. We learn to think critically about what historians have written about the past and how their ideas are shaped by their own interests and biases. The same body of evidence can be used to defend very diverse positions and rarely are there plain and straight-forward facts to be memorized. By getting our hands dirty with primary documents, we learn how to write history well, how to support an argument, and ultimately how to tell a good story. I also think that the skills one learns in my classes make students better researchers, thinkers and writers in whatever professions they decide to pursue. 

Scholarly Interest

Ken Albala is Professor of History at the University of the Pacific and Director of the Food Studies MA program in San Francisco. He has authored or edited 23 books on food including Eating Right in the RenaissanceFood in Early Modern EuropeCooking in Europe 1250-1650The Banquet, Beans (winner 2008 IACP Jane Grigson Award), Pancake, Grow Food, Cook Food, Share Food and Nuts: A Global History. He was co-editor of the journal Food, Culture and Society and has also co-edited The Business of Food, Human CuisineFood and Faith and edited A Cultural History of Food: The Renaissance and The Routledge International Handbook of Food Studies. Albala was editor of the Food Cultures Around the World series, the 4-volume Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia and the 3-volume Sage Encyclopedia of Food Issues published in 2015. He is also series editor of Rowman and Littlefield Studies in Food and Gastronomy for which wrote Three World Cuisines (winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards best foreign cuisine book in the world for 2012). He has also co-authored two cookbooks: The Lost Art of Real Cooking and The Lost Arts of Hearth and Home. His latest works are a Food History Reader and a translation of the 16th century Livre fort excellent de cuysine. His course Food: A Cultural Culinary History is available on DVD from the Great Courses. In the fall 2015 his At the Table: Food and Family Around the World will the published. He is now working on a book about noodle soups. 


Pacific Seminar II "What is Good Food?"
This course focuses on the personal, social, political and environmental consequences of the modern diet. The food that we eat is one of the strongest markers of identity and literally becomes us. Sharing meals is the primal bonding experience we have within families as well as in social, ethnic and religious groups. The food that is grown, processed and traded also constitutes a major sector of the global economy and the most important way we interact with the planet. Diet therefore provides a unique and all-encompassing approach to many of the most pressing problems of our world today. Furthermore, we routinely categorize foods as good or bad. What exactly do we mean by these terms? Do we mean they taste good or bad, are bad for our health, spiritual or social well being. Perhaps we consider the consequences to other people in the US or abroad, or to other species or the planet itself? Clarifying the usage of these many facets of the idea of good food will not only help students make more rational choices about what they eat, but will help them make more informed decisions about spending money, supporting various ethical concerns, voting and ultimately living.

Hist 10 Western Civilization I
An introductory survey of the history of Western Civilization, beginning with the emergence of classical Greek culture and ending with the Reformation in the sixteenth century. The political, social and religious ideas of ancient Rome and Greece have shaped European culture and formed an enduring legacy for our societies until today. The course will examine the life and interactions of men and women throughout the centuries and trace the development of political and social institutions in a geographic area that we know as Europe. Studying this fascinating history of war and peace, destruction and great achievements will help as understand what our present life has to do with the past.

Hist 11 Western Civilization II
This course is an introductory survey of the history of Western Civilization from the sixteenth century to the present. We will explore some of the great political, social and economic transformations that led to the Western world as we know it today. The Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment permanently changed humans' view of the world. Modern states and new forms of governments emerged as the French and Industrial Revolutions undermined the political and economic order. The rise of nationalism and totalitarianism led to catastrophes in the twentieth century. After the Cold War, we face new problems that push us to take stock of where we are at the beginning of the new millennium.

Hist 60 A History of Medicine
This course will begin by objectively examining ancient medical systems across the globe: Chinese, Ayurvedic, Native American, and will come to focus on the Greek tradition in the West. We will also discuss the transmission of medical knowledge through Arab, Jewish and medieval Christian authorities, and the impact of the discovery of the New World. The second half of the course will trace the influence of the scientific revolution and the development of modern medicine in the 19th and 20th centuries. Particular emphasis will be placed on the subfields of physiology, nutrition and herbal lore; in the second half of the course on anatomy, pathology and surgery. Biology, Premed, and Pharmacy students are encouraged to enroll, as well as non-science majors. No prerequisites or specialized knowledge required.

Hist 61 A Global History of Food
The scope of the course will be global, covering civilizations of Asia, America, Africa, and Europe and how cultures of these domesticated unique staples, which literally enabled these civilizations to expand and flourish. The course will cover history of the interaction of humans with food resources from earliest hunting and gathering societies to the present. The major theme of the course will be the process of globalization, imperialism and the growth of capitalist enterprise and the cost of indigenous cultures and traditional farming practices and how these processes were shaped by trade in food.

Hist 100 Renaissance and Reformation
An in depth examination of the cultural, intellectual and artistic forces which shaped Europe from 1300-1600. The first half of the course focuses on Renaissance Italy, the second on the various Reformations: German, Swiss, English, Radical and Catholic.

Hist 101 Tudor and Stuart England
A multi-disciplinary approach to the history of England from 1485-1688 which examines the social, economic, political and religious forces which shaped this brilliant and barbaric era. Focuses on the personalities, noble and base, which have shaped English history. Traces the development of institutions (Crown Parliament, Church) and longtime trends in society and economy, intellectual and cultural history.

Hist 102 The Spanish Empire
Covers the late Middle Ages to the 18th century. An attempt to objectively assess the emergence of the first world empire, its triumphs and tragedies, and its motivations for conquest: glory, greed and God. Social and economic forces will be examined as well as disease, warfare, slavery and statecraft in Spanish possession throughout Europe, the Americas, and Asia.