Ship’s Biscuits: Fuelling Empire, if not Diplomacy

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If Britain’s naval infrastructure was the vehicle of its expansion during the 18th and 19th centuries, then ship’s biscuits were the fuel. The empire’s global infiltration, so catastrophic for First Nations peoples across Australia, the Pacific, Africa and North America, would not have been possible without the sustenance afforded by this most basic of seagoing staples. The humble biscuit, later known as hard tack, and which was ‘always known as bread at sea,’[1] never masqueraded as an object of culinary enjoyment, and did not even have the pretence of nutrition. This most basic ration, issued to sailors and soldiers across thousands of years and multiple empires, existed to ward off starvation.

Period2 Jul 2021

Media contributions


Media contributions


  • Ships Biscuits
  • First Nations Histories