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December 28, 1970

Nicholas Copernicus and the Inception of Bread-Buttering

Author Affiliations

From the departments of history (Dr. Hand) and medicine (Dr. Kunin), University of Vermont College of Medicine, Burlington.

JAMA. 1970;214(13):2312-2315. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03180130046011

Historians have classically emphasized social, economic, and cultural factors as having the greatest impact upon the development of dietary habits. While their basic assumptions have doubtless been correct, they have unfortunately tended to ignore other significant factors. This essay will elaborate upon certain political and military circumstances and their relevance to the inception of buttered bread.

During the first quarter of the 16th century, Ermland was the scene of frequent and terrible devastation. Bordering upon the Gulf of Danzig, Ermland was one of the four dioceses into which Prussia had been divided for purposes of ecclesiastical government. Its bishop, Fabian von Lossainen, was both temporal and spiritual ruler, and his secular responsibilities were the more burdensome. A vassal of the King of Poland, the Bishop was frequently engaged in conflict with the Order of Teutonic Knights. The Order had formerly ruled Ermland and periodically launched military expeditions to regain supremacy.

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