Agriculture depends on the relationship between cultivated seeds, environment and human action. How has this articulation been carried out historically? This is an important question for ReSEED project. Books that cover this topic are useful for the research, such as “Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States” written by James C. Scott.

The American political scientist and anthropologist is co-Director of the program in Agrarian Studies at Yale University and is known for studying peasant communities and the state’s relationship with different social groups. The book presents controversial conclusions discussed by professors Dulce Freire (Institute of Social Sciences – University of Lisbon / ReSEED’s Principal Investigator) and Amélia Branco (Lisbon School of Economics & Management – ISEG) on April 23, 2019, in the event “Cycle of Books of Our Time” that took place in ISEG.

The author argues that wheat (in Mesopotamia) and other grains such as maize (in Central America) or rice (in China) played a key role in the creation of the first States. By explaining why cereals instead of other crops (such as lentils, chickpeas, potatoes or cassava) were the cornerstones of these early States, Scott contributes to understanding the link between the construction of institutions and the biological specificities of different species.

To support this and other ideas, Scott relies on biological, ecological, agronomic and epidemiological data, crossing them with economic, social and political ones. The combination of information from different disciplines also forms the basis of ReSEED. The goal is to improve explanations on the impacts of the new seeds in Europe, starting with the Iberian Peninsula.