Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization

Open Road + Grove/Atlantic
2
Free sample

“A rich, complex history . . . Deeply engaging and witty” (Los Angeles Times).
 
Long before Columbus arrived in the New Word, tobacco was cultivated and enjoyed by the indigenous inhabitants of the Americas, who used it for medicinal, religious, and social purposes. But when Europeans began to colonize the American continents, it became something else entirely—a cultural touchstone of pleasure and success, and a coveted commodity that would transform the world economy forever.
 
Iain Gately’s Tobacco tells the epic story of an unusual plant and its unique relationship with the history of humanity, from its obscure ancient beginnings, through its rise to global prominence, to its current embattled state today. In a lively narrative, Gately makes the case for the tobacco trade being the driving force behind the growth of the American colonies, the foundation of Dutch trading empire, the underpinning cause of the African slave trade, and the financial basis for victory in the American Revolution. Well-researched and wide-ranging, Tobacco is a vivid and provocative look at the surprising roles this plant has played in the culture of the world.
 
“Ambitious . . . informative and perceptive . . . Gately is an amusing writer, which is a blessing.” —The Washington Post
 
“Documents the resourcefulness with which human beings of every class, religion, race, and continent have pursued the lethal leaf.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
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About the author

Iain Gately is the author of the novel The Assessor.
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3.5
2 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Open Road + Grove/Atlantic
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Published on
Dec 1, 2007
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780802198488
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / Colonial Period (1600-1775)
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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From the author of 1491—the best-selling study of the pre-Columbian Americas—a deeply engaging new history of the most momentous biological event since the death of the dinosaurs.

More than 200 million years ago, geological forces split apart the continents. Isolated from each other, the two halves of the world developed radically different suites of plants and animals. When Christopher Columbus set foot in the Americas, he ended that separation at a stroke. Driven by the economic goal of establishing trade with China, he accidentally set off an ecological convulsion as European vessels carried thousands of species to new homes across the oceans.

The Columbian Exchange, as researchers call it, is the reason there are tomatoes in Italy, oranges in Florida, chocolates in Switzerland, and chili peppers in Thailand. More important, creatures the colonists knew nothing about hitched along for the ride. Earthworms, mosquitoes, and cockroaches; honeybees, dandelions, and African grasses; bacteria, fungi, and viruses; rats of every description—all of them rushed like eager tourists into lands that had never seen their like before, changing lives and landscapes across the planet.

Eight decades after Columbus, a Spaniard named Legazpi succeeded where Columbus had failed. He sailed west to establish continual trade with China, then the richest, most powerful country in the world. In Manila, a city Legazpi founded, silver from the Americas, mined by African and Indian slaves, was sold to Asians in return for silk for Europeans. It was the first time that goods and people from every corner of the globe were connected in a single worldwide exchange. Much as Columbus created a new world biologically, Legazpi and the Spanish empire he served created a new world economically.

As Charles C. Mann shows, the Columbian Exchange underlies much of subsequent human history. Presenting the latest research by ecologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians, Mann shows how the creation of this worldwide network of ecological and economic exchange fostered the rise of Europe, devastated imperial China, convulsed Africa, and for two centuries made Mexico City—where Asia, Europe, and the new frontier of the Americas dynamically interacted—the center of the world. In such encounters, he uncovers the germ of today’s fiercest political disputes, from immigration to trade policy to culture wars.

In 1493, Charles Mann gives us an eye-opening scientific interpretation of our past, unequaled in its authority and fascination.
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