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How the humble potato helped bring peace in war-split Europe

The humble potato — drought-resistant, able to thrive in diverse soils and enjoyed fried, steamed or baked — brought centuries of relative calm and prosperity to Europe after its introduction in the 16th century, a new study says. The crop, discovered in Latin America in the 1400s before eventually sweeping through Europe, greatly boosted productivity, helping lower land costs while improving nutrition and raising wages, from peasants up to the ruling classes, according to the study for the National Bureau of Economic Research. The blessings that flowed from this agricultural revolution helped ease the economic and societal pressures that can lead to costly and disastrous conflicts, says the report. The introduction of potatoes and the resultant increase in productivity “dramatically reduced conflict” both within and between states for some two centuries, it says. The researchers, who examined 2,477 battles fought in 899 wars over a 500-year period, drew two key conclusions. The first is linked to the declining value of land on which potatoes are grown. More

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