The author of this book has a wandering mind with a lot to say. He gives the reader much to think about, even if the books sometimes lacks focus. In fact, it reads like several books in one. Still, I recommend it to anyone interested in the history of World War I or in the general economic issues of globalization and international trade. The main focus is on the international trade in bread grains between Great Britain and the wider "Atlantic Economies", primarily Canada, the United States, and Australia, but also Russia, Argentina and India. A second focus, carefully explored, is the impact on the war of the trade global and internal of grains and potatoes of Germany. A third focus is on how this globalization and the opportunities of the lower classes in Britain to better themselves by migration while remaining connected to the British economy defused social friction at home while maintaining the immigrant's social ties to Britain.
The primary message of the book is that the globally integrated British economy - industry in the metropolis of Great Britain and grain growing in an overseas hinterland - enabled Britain to wage war against Germany with much greater strength than appeared possible from simply measuring the population and industrial output of that island nation.
The integration started when the Corn Laws freed British grain markets from protective tariffs in the 1840s. Afterward Britain came to depend on overseas sources of food, including grain, fats and meat. By 1900 the country was especially dependent on bread grain, of which 80% was imported. Towards the end of the British harvest season the amount of bread grain in Britain could be less than seven weeks. The cargo ships carrying grain to Britain were moving silos. This was an obvious target for an enemy with a navy. At the same time it was an economically efficient specialization of resources, which benefited both the metropolis where industry flourished and the grain producing countries that grew rich off agricultural exports. The cost to Britain was borne by the need to maintain a large navy.