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Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Bill Laws
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26. November 2010
Of course, we are entirely dependent on plants for our food and the air we breathe, but did you know that 5,000 mature English oak trees were used in the construction of Admiral Nelson's flagship HMS Victory, or that sweet peas were involved in the birth of the science of genetics? King Cotton was the driver of the slave trade, which was the first domino to fall in the American Revolution, and cotton was also the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution. These, and many other extraordinary facts in Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History, highlight the dynamic ways in which plants have influenced human history. This beautifully designed and illustrated volume provides an engaging guide to the fifty key plants that have had the most impact on human history. Packed full of information, the book includes details about the habitat and characteristics of each plant, fact boxes, full colour photographs and lovely botanical illustrations. Weaving together strands of economic, political and agricultural history, each entry is a fascinating look at the most influential plants known to mankind.

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  • Gebundene Ausgabe: 223 Seiten
  • Verlag: David & Charles (26. November 2010)
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0715338544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0715338544
  • Größe und/oder Gewicht: 22,9 x 17,3 x 2,3 cm
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: Nr. 108.985 in Fremdsprachige Bücher (Siehe Top 100 in Fremdsprachige Bücher)
  • Komplettes Inhaltsverzeichnis ansehen

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Über den Autor und weitere Mitwirkende

Bill Laws is a writer, editor and journalist who specialises in homes, gardens and landscapes. He is the author of ten books including Common Losses: Essays and Interviews on Trees, Woods and the Green Man. Bill's work has featured in the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers as well as various BBC publications, Environment Now and Period House. He is based in Herefordshire, England.

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5.0 von 5 Sternen Für Interessierte ein MUSS 13. Januar 2011
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Ein tolles Buch für alle die Menschen, die sich für Geschichte, Hintergründe und Entwicklung für diesen Teil der botanischen Welt interessieren.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 von 5 Sternen  32 Rezensionen
69 von 71 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Plants, Civilization, and Human nature 28. April 2011
Von allanbecker-gardenguru - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History
I have just read a gripping saga. Ostensibly, it's about plants, but actually, it's about us. This collection of anecdotes details how plants influenced human behavior which, in turn, affected the course of history. By chronicling the commercial activity surrounding the discovery and marketing of the food we eat, the beverages we drink, and the plants we transform, the author describes how those activities impacted wars, political boundaries, habits, social behavior, and addictions. I thought that I would be reading an encyclopedia of the history of important plants, but in fact, I was delving into an immensely fascinating epic about western civilization. No sooner had I completed an exciting chapter about one plant, when I could hardly wait to begin reading about the next.

The influence that plants had, and still continue to have, on our lives becomes apparent when we think about the amount of fossil fuel we consume, the large number of botanical gardens constructed around the world, and the considerable investments we make in our gardens. But that is only a small part of the bigger story. With this publication, the author identifies 50 plants that have altered the history of life on earth. Here are just a few tid-bits:-

-The discovery of the pineapple in the New World inspired the invention of the green house in Europe.
-Hemp was used to manufacture the paper used to write the American Declaration of Independence.
-Agave is used in the manufacture of bullets.
-Coconut is integral to making sterile I.V. drips.
-The opium poppy transformed the history of China. .
-Trade in black pepper created a need for banking.
-Peoples' craving for sugar influenced the growth of the slave trade.
-The French revolution may be traced to the significance of bread and a poor wheat harvest.
-8,800 pounds of mulberry leaves are needed to feed silkworms to supply enough yarn to make one blouse.
-Coffee is indirectly responsible for the Boston Tea Party and Harry Potter.
-Cotton uses only 3% of the world's farmland but 25% of the world's pesticides.
- painting of sunflowers changed the art world
-Fire-resistant uniforms are manufactured using Eucalyptus.

The author reports that in addition to influencing the course of history, some plants have also contributed to the self destructive behavior of some people. Many have done themselves harm from the weight gained by overeating sugar, from administering plant - based narcotics, or by drinking alcohol. Others have damaged their bodies by inhaling nicotine into their lungs or by marinating their liver with alcoholic beverages. On balance though, we also experience safe pleasures from plants by drinking tea or wine, by inhaling the fragrance of flowers, and by stroking a silk garment.

Reading this book is better than watching a documentary. It runs at a fast-paced clip from one plant to another, constantly revealing fascinating details about civilization, economics, and above all, human nature.
20 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Great title falls short on promise 17. April 2012
Von Kindle Customer - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
"Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History" is an intriguing title but falls short of its promise. The author has selected fifty plants from around the world and provided a 2-4 page profile of each, supplemented by a short list of facts (native habitat, height), images, and sidebars. The stories interweave commercial, medicinal, economic, and social roles played by plants over time, however, it can be a bit disorganized and jumpy at times, and you occasionally find yourself thinking, "so what's the point of this paragraph?"--a better editor could have tightened this up.

A major failure is that the author didn't convince me that history changed because of these plants--there's often no clear before-and-after picture drawn by the stories. It might be there, but the author seems distracted by other facts, quotes, or stories that he lost track of the core message. For example, the entry on Wild Cabbage is centered around Clarence Birdseye's development of frozen food, starting with his experience freezing cabbages in his northern Canadian home. Frozen food did introduce major changes in diet (ability to eat foods out of season), household practices (emphasis on convenience, larger home freezers) but they're not even mentioned. Instead, he spends most of the time discussing the inclusion of cabbages in Victory Gardens (which I'm not sure changed history).

Perhaps the book should be named "The Fifty Most Important Plants in the World", but then he'd still have difficulties--he neglects to mention cabbage in its pickled form is a defining element in some cultures (as sauerkraut in Germany or kimchee in Korea), providing an important source of nutrition in winter months. Perhaps he didn't conduct sufficient research--the bibliography is superficial and misses much of the recent scholarship on the history of food (for example, John McPhee, Michael Pollan, and Andrew Smith are all absent).

If you're seeking scholarship or expecting to understand the watershed moments in food history, you'll be disappointed. If you're looking for a nicely designed book and a light entertaining read about food, you'll enjoy it.
15 von 15 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A different and entertaining look at 50 top plants 22. September 2011
Von Wiltshire Bookworm - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Just when you think there's nothing new to be said, Bill Laws has come up with a most entertaining guide stuffed full of the stories and trivia surrounding 50 of our most well-known (and used) plants.

Each of them is categorised into whether it has value as an edible, medicinal, commercial or practical use with most of them fitting into at least two of the categories. The entries are ordered by latin name, so Agave is the first and Ginger (Zingiber) is the last, with all kinds of treasures in between such as maize, ferns, English oak, tea, hemp and tulip. Don't worry, you don't need to be a latin scholar to enjoy this book as on the whole greater prominence is given to the more well-known common names.

There's a tiny thumbnail sketch outlining each plant's natural geographical distribution, the type of plant it is and the height it typically grows to. The bulk of each entry (usually a double page spread, but with longer entries for plants such as wheat which has thousands of years of history associated with it) is taken up with the stories and quirky facts which make up the role each has played in our history and culture over many centuries.

Each entry is accompanied by a botanical illustration or a photograph showing the key features of the plant or the component (such as cardamom seeds) generally used. There's also plenty of photographs, quotations, art and drawings to help fill out the story. As well as the main article, there's also separate box(es) featuring some quirky detail: who would have thought that the humble leek would be the vegetable featured in a 4,000 year-old recipe for instance?

Whilst I loved this book on the whole, there's a couple of gripes which stopped me giving it the full five star treatment. Firstly BCE and CE are used instead of BC and AD respectively to indicate dates. It's the first time I'd come across this alternative notation, it wasn't explained in the book and so it jarred with me each time I saw it. I've asked around and most people I know aren't aware of this convention either.

I also believe the book needs to be strengthened with a chapter giving much more historical context. I found the individual stories tended to jump around rather and a timeline representation would have helped to show exactly where each plant fits into our history and also in relation to each other. For example, this would have clearly shown the parallel development of wheat and potatoes as key edible crops on different continents over thousands of years and not just the few centuries the potato has been used in Europe.

On the whole it's an attractive introduction to a fascinating aspect of plant history, which I'd like to study in more detail sometime.

First reviewed on Amazon.co.uk
19 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
2.0 von 5 Sternen Lightweight, inaccurate in details; very disappointing 7. August 2012
Von Lisa - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
The concept of this book is wonderful, and there is a huge amount of detail, but the many inaccuracies in both details and excessively sweeping generalizations are hard to take.

E.g. the silk road started in "Xi'an, (Siam, now Thailand)" Or that "[the Cultural Revolution] was the first time since 2800 BCE that [rice] had failed [China's] farmers". There are many more; the photo of sugar beet plantation under sugar cane, the muddle of the history of the olive...

Some sections I fail to see any impact on history; Cardamom has nothing significant and doesn't belong (I can think of several that make more sense than Cardamom... maybe the author had more interested details on Cardamom and that was the criteria). Ferns are important via coal leading to the industrial revolution. Apparently impact of sweet pea is that a different plant, the garden pea, led to genetic insights.

Other than the annoyance factor, it's not bad for (very) light reading and some of the pictures are nice. But it's really a shame: I love gardening and I find history fascinating, and I can't imagine any book more interesting than a well-done, thoughtful and accurate book about the plants that have impacted history.
11 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen There's a market for everything 7. Dezember 2011
Von ThirstyBrooks - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Bill Laws has given us a nifty coffee table book, Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History. Short chapters mean it's easy to interrupt reading when other guests arrive. The chapters appear in no particular order, so you can leave off reading at any point, though with considerable risk of being unable to find your place should you want to start anew. Laws generously illustrates his book with photographs of general interest, as opposed to photos a naturalist might expect in a field guide.

Each individual chapter comes with several magazine-style sidebar articles, offering additional cursory reading. Each article provides a sense of importance to the material, though the real importance seems to be amusement. Obscure and quirky facts can hold the interest of even well educated naturalists, so the book will appeal to those intrigued enough to open it.
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