The Introduction presents the paired arguments that from around 1750 appetite, once a matter of personal inclination, became an object of science to be managed by experts, and that subjecting appetite to external authority has strongly contributed to contemporary eating anxieties. It sets forth the time-frame of the study (Enlightenment to “big science”) and its emphasis on developments in France, Germany, Britain, and the United States during the four half-century periods between 1750 and 1950. The Introduction discusses the prior historiographical neglect of the subject and explains the book’s focus on science and medicine as a first step toward a broader sociocultural history of appetite. Recurrent themes and problems in the history of appetite are introduced, including efforts to define the origin and nature of appetite, ways of differentiating appetite from hunger, methodological disputes within and among evolving disciplines, and gendered assumptions about appetite. The author argues against the homogenization of appetite fostered by the ideology of “nutritionism” and calls for renewed respect for the complexities of individual appetite.
Keywords: appetite, hunger, eating anxieties, historiography, methodology, gender, homogenization, nutritionism