I would like to know if there is any detailed, research-based history of vegetarianism and/or veganism available online.

Ideally, I am looking for something global that avoids an ethnocentric approach. Some UK and other European and North American vegetarian and vegan societies and associations have pages about their own histories and these have some interesting stories, but I'm looking for something with a much broader scope.

2 Answers 2


Ian McDonald, creator of The Vegan Option internet radio show (some might call it a podcast...) and blog, crowdfunded an extensively researched 15-part audio history of vegetarianism in 2017.

Vegetarianism: The Story So Far

The series aims to cover the entire known history of vegetarian practice and its political, religious, economic and social context. Each episode is about 30 minutes long.

The 15 episode titles are:

  1. Ahimsa – Jains and other śramaṇas of iron age India
  2. The Middle Path – visiting the birthplace of Buddhism
  3. Pythagoreans – on the Cults of Orpheus and Pythagoras in Ancient Greece, at the British Museum
  4. Ashoka – India’s animal advocate Buddhist king
  5. Flesh and Spirit – on the ascetics of the near east, their strict vegetable diets, and their varied spiritual ideas
  6. Hinduism – how vegetarianism becomes a major part of medieval India
  7. Heresies – abstemious religions struggle against Christian persecution, but Buddhism & other vegetarian faiths spread throughout East Asia
  8. Contacts – when Islam and Christianity venture into India, not only does it force local vegetarian traditions to adapt, but some of the monotheists adopt vegetarianism
  9. Renaissance – venturing to Paris as its thinkers rediscover the vegetarianism of antiquity, and recoil in horror from Descartes’ denial of animal feelings
  10. Revolution – on the English civil war, diet gurus, and the poetry of Sensibility
  11. Enlightenment – on Colonial India, Voltaire, Rousseau, and the vegetarian radicals of the French Revolution
  12. Radicals & Romantics – at the sites of vegetarian communities in England & the USA, we discover how various groups cohered into a vegetarian movement
  13. The Vegetarians – on Slavery Abolitionism, colonialism in India, and Victorian reformers
  14. Diet Reform – on consumerism, “back to nature”, and Gandhi
  15. Liberation – on veganism, hippies, and the animal rights movement

All episodes are available online to listen to or download in MP4 and MP3 format. Complete transcripts are also provided.


It may not be exactly what you are looking for (in terms of range/depth), but you may find it interesting to read nonetheless:

It's a brief history of the vegetarian diet; it address some of the staples foods found in past vegetarian or nearly vegetarian societies. Furthermore, it lays out some famous vegetarians throughout history (like Pythagoras, Rousseau, and Voltaire) and discusses some of their reasons for being vegetarians. Finally, the paper attempts to track the evolution of consensus in the health community towards the healthiness of vegetarian diets.

  • 3
    Thank you very much! The historical origins section is weirdly Eurocentric but I like the way they examine how the perception of vegetarian nutrition specifically has changed over time
    – Zanna
    Commented Aug 2, 2021 at 5:04

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