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Danielle LaScala

History, De Montfort University

Thesis title:

The Burger in Britain: A Symbol of Americana

 After an era of dietary restriction caused by the economic struggles of World War II, families in America and Britain were ready for an indulgent and (presumably) wholesome meal. The beef burger presented a uniquely palatable and affordable option that eventually satisfied individuals across a variety of social backgrounds, while also speaking to a newfound food identity which valued quantity and freedom. Subsequently, the burger, a mainstay of American culture and cuisine, has risen to a nearly iconic status both across the UK and the globe.

 My research positions the burger as a symbol of ‘Americana’, a concept that alludes to a post-war utopia of overabundance and economic success. I will firstly trace the history of the burger’s global expansion from small-town luncheons in America to the British high street. I will then consider the introduction of American fast-food chains such as McDonalds, a corporation which currently claims to serve, on average, 3.5 million customers a day in the UK alone (McDonalds UK). McDonalds and other burger restaurants have shaped the identity of the burger, and through their expansion have facilitated an interaction of the British consumer and American capitalism. This idea provides an opportunity to question how marketing and environment can impact consumer health.

 As books such as Fish and Chips (Panayi, 2014), and Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food (Pilcher, 2012) have recently demonstrated, there is great historical value in studying the dishes that societies elect to define themselves. Roused by this novel methodology, this thesis will utilise a variety of sources to create a biography of the burger in Britain. That is, a chronicle of its conception, development, expansion, and its continuing adaptation. While traditional written sources such as journals, company records, and legal papers will inform elements of urban, health, and corporate history, this thesis will also utilise product packaging, photographs, and the built restaurant environment to further discussions on advertisement history and capitalist influence.

 Through the study of the burger, this thesis hopes to generate discussion around the foods that are expanding globally with rapid pace. The symbolic acceptance of the burger in Britain speaks to a deeper acceptance of American lifestyle and value; it is the goal of this thesis to fully evaluate the significance – and results – of this interaction. 

Research Area

  • Cultural History
  • History


"Cross-Cultural Food Biographies: The Burger in Britain", Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) and the Agriculture, Food & Human Values Society (AFHVS) Knowing Food Conference 2023, Boston University, 2 June 2023. 

"Fast-food and "Americanisation" in Urban British Restaurants", Leicester Historical Association, Online, 9 May 2023.

"Fast-food and "Americanisation" in Urban British Restaurants", Urban History Group Annual Conference 2023, University of Warwick, 30 March 2023. 

"A New Mode of Consumption: Introducing Britain to the American Burger", Institute of Historical Research Food History Seminar, Online, 9 March 2023. 

"The Battle of the Burgers": The Origins of Modern Consumption Habits in Britain, 1954-1985', University of Cambridge Modern British History Workshop, University of Cambridge, 17 November 2022. 

"From Burger Bars to Restaurants: The Establishment of Fast Food as Common Culture in Britain", Contemporary History and Politics Seminar Series, University of Nottingham, 28 October 2022. 

"Historicising a Crisis: Britain Meets the Burger", Nottingham Trent University Postgraduate Conference 2022, Nottingham Trent University, 22 June 2022.

Other Research Interests

  • American history
  • Business history
  • Consumption studies
  • Food and public health policy
  • Modern British history


  • Institute of Historical Research (IHR) Postgraduate History Lab.
  • Graduate Association for Food Studies (GAFS).
  • Business History Conference (BHC).

Teaching Experience

Part-Time Lecturer in History (2023)

First-year module, HIST1003: Modern British History since 1800, De Montfort University.

First-year module, HIST1004: Nation, Empire, and Revolution, De Montfort University. 

Development and Training

Get Engaged with Policy! Programme (2023).

Certificate of thematic researcher training in academic-policy engagement capabilities, University of Nottingham. 

Training to Teach Workshop and Mentoring Programme (2022-2023).

East Midlands Centre for History Learning and Teaching, University of Nottingham. 

Summer School of Food and Drink Studies (2022).

European Institute for the History and Culture of Food, Université de Tours, France.

Additional Activities

Student Advisory Forum Representative (2022 - 2023).

Midlands4Cities, De Montfort University.

E-Volunteer Transcriber (2020).

The National Archives, UK. 

Volunteer Archives Assistant (2019).

Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, De Montfort University.

The Food Examiner is my personal blog inspired by my PhD research: https://danielleglascala.wixsite.com/food-examiner.