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Seeds of Change. Six Plants that Transformed Mankind [Hardcover]

5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: The Folio Society (2007)
  • ASIN: B001LQX3EW
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,097,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book is about the history of vegetables and I read it about 10 years ago yet I still remember so much about it. For those who think history is all about kings, parliaments and wars, this book is a revelation.
It is very readable and the not at all highbrow.
By telling the stories of Quinine, Cotton, Potato, Sugar and Tea, Hobhouse teaches us about the creation of nations, wars, countries and civilisations, I am delighted to see it on the Amazon hot 100 and know that all who buy it will be thoroughly entertained and informed. This is the very best sort of book
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History from a Botanical Perspective 23 July 2002
By Milady
I read this book first when it dealt with just 5 plants and the extra chapter on Coca had not been added. It is one of those narratives that enables you to see history from a different perspective, showing you the patterns and currents of world history and how something as simple as one commodity can twist and change people's humanity, ethics, fashion and taste as well as the drastic changes it can wreak on the world as a whole.
It was written long before the current trend of popular and quirky history and in my opinion, is superior to most of them. Absolute thinking history at its best.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the author 21 Jun 2000
By A Customer
In the 1980s, I wrote the first book to identify plants as an important cause of change in History. In 1985, this was published in London as Seeds of Change. (The title was thought up by my editors). The book, greeted as an unusual, readable and fresh approach to history, was in the end translated into a dozen languages. It was published in New York in 1986 and lent its theme and title to the Smithsonian Institution for the Quincentennial Exposition of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean in 1492. The Exposition, at the Natural History Museum in Washington (1992), turned into an icon for Political Correctness, being anachronistic, against the spirit of the conquistadors and alien to the message of the book, which tried to reflect the spirit of the contemporary post-Renaissance world, not the guilt of modern people living within the Washington Beltway.
The secondary title of Seeds of Change was Five Plants that Transformed Mankind and these were Quinine, that allowed Europeans to dominate the Tropics; Sugar, that changed the Caribbean population from Red Arawaks and Caribs to White Masters and Black Slaves; Tea, that inter alia, led to the destruction of classical China through the use by traders of opium in exchange for tea; cotton, that, like sugar in the Caribbean, led to a slave-economy in the Southern United States; and finally, the Potato, which produced huge increases in the Irish population and, when disease struck the potato, famine followed as did the greening of some of the United States.
The Seeds of Change Exposition in Washington in 1992 extended the story of transfer to the New World of Old World diseases and animals.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Additional Comment to Review 2 May 2000
Like the first reviewer, I also rate this with 5 stars: it is as much about the history of vegetables as "Fear of Flying" was about aeronautics. The case histories tell you more about the virtues and vices of capitalism than you would think possible.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and highly readable 20 July 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A friend recommended this book to me and I took it away as my 'summer read' this year. I was not disappointed and ploughed straight through it in 4 days, enjoying every page. Mr Hobhouse's history of the discovery and use of these five plants (6 in the new edition) is a real eye-opener, and got me thinking about modern history in a totally new way. As a student of history I thought I already knew a good deal about the slave trade and colonialism, for example. But 'Seeds of Change' really opened my mind to how the standard, linear account of history that plays up the role of kings and leaders is just one (very limited) way of thinking about the development of the modern world. If you are at all interested in history, and how the modern world was created, then you will love this book.
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