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7 Reviews
5 star:
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3 star:    (0)
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, illuminating extraordinary "history" book, 6 Feb. 1999
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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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars History from a Botanical Perspective, 23 July 2002
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This review is from: Seeds of Change (Paperback)
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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48 of 50 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. There was also the Eastward move of some of the plants of the Americas to Europe, such as the tomato, without which it is hard to imagine modern Mediterranean cuisine. Despite efforts to be visitor-friendly, I thought the Exposition, that used, by agreement, my ideas and my title, lacked authority and integrity, largely because its guiding hands were not those of historians, but of anthropologists and of practitioners of other, even more modish disciplines, who had an agenda of their own, derived from the Washington of 1992, not that of Europe of 1492.
The Exposition spawned a large, illustrated book, also called Seeds of Change, with Herman J Viola as the author. All the other twenty-odd books with the same title stem from the Exposition.
My own, the original, Seeds of Change, went through many printings and has always remained available in London. A new edition has an extra chapter: Coca: how an Andean boon became a scourge on the streets, which tells the story of the Andean use of coca leaves and of the abuse of the modern concentrate, cocaine, which has harmed so many.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Additional Comment to Review, 2 May 2000
By 
Michael E Allen (PUTNEY, LONDON England) - See all my reviews
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and highly readable, 20 July 2010
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This review is from: Seeds of Change (Paperback)
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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4.0 out of 5 stars ... to sellotape in for safety - not something I like to do to a book - but content excellent ..., 15 Sept. 2014
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There were a few loose pages which I had to sellotape in for safety - not something I like to do to a book - but content excellent as expected also delivery etc In view of price would not reject for loose pages as content complete.
Folio have recently published this title as content very interesting
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 8 Oct. 2014
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Fascinating Read!!!
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Seeds of Change. Six Plants that Transformed Mankind
Seeds of Change. Six Plants that Transformed Mankind by Henry Hobhouse (Hardcover - 2007)
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