The relationship between food and cities is thousands of years old. In fact, it is believed that some of humanity’s earliest collective settlements, such as the 11,000-year-old Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, were founded at the point where humans transitioned from hunter gathering to settled agriculture. From then on, the rate of growth of cities was directly linked to the ability of said city to feed a growing population. It was not until the Ancient Romans, with their unprecedented mastery of overseas trade, that cities were capable of relying on external sources for food. All roads did indeed lead to Rome.
This correlation between city growth and agricultural capacity continued until the Industrial Revolution, when developments in transport meant that cities were no longer dependent on their surrounding hinterland for food. This led to the explosion of city limits across the world, most noticeably in London where the establishment of railways across England correlated directly with London’s exponential increase in size. As cities grew larger, and could be reached quicker, the global food trading system we know today gradually developed over 200 years, resulting in today’s tangled web of interconnected global food flows.