The Poppy: A Cultural History from Ancient Egypt to Flanders Fields to Afghanistan Hardcover – 17 Oct 2013
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‘Saunders movingly presents the poppy in its beauty, its tragedy and its healing power as a potent symbol every year in our national and global remembrance of loss.’(Saga magazine)
'Saunders movingly presents the poppy in its beauty, its tragedy and its healing power as a potent symbol every year in our national and global remembrance of loss.' Saga Magazine --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product description
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Nicholas Saunders charts the history of the poppy - or more appropriately, two species of poppy, the red corn poppy and the white opium poppy. The two are often confused, and in the history of warfare have almost become inseparable, one a symbol of death and blood spilled, the other the source of pain-relief and the haze of forgetfulness. Corn poppies thrive in broken ground, partly why they grow in such profusion in battlefields, and opium poppies have been harvested for their narcoleptic effect for thousands of years. In the supreme example of the combining of the two, and in one of our more shameful historical episodes, the British Empire even fought a war over the right to profit from illegal opium sales in China.
Understandably the focus in this book is primarily on WW1 and the adoption of the red poppy as the official symbol of honour and remembrance, but it also focuses heavily on the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and especially the opium trade in the latter country. The combination of the red corn poppy and the white opium poppy, whilst understandable given how often the two are confused, makes this book's narrative a tad muddled - leaping from red poppies and Remembrance Sundays to the War on Terror and the Taliban gives a reader a certain amount of literary whiplash. Perhaps a more straight-forward exploration of the red poppy's adoption, meaning, significance and controversies might have made for a more coherent narrative, without the detours into the drug trade and Taliban.
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