Book Review: Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History

Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History

by Bill Laws

Before opening this book I started thinking about which plants might be covered…

The potato?       Bamboo?     The cocoa plant?

Once you start pondering the subject it’s amazing how many plants you can come up with that have had a significant impact on the way we eat, how we live, and how our world in general looks today.

Did you know the mulberry tree had an impact on trade relations between China and the western world?

How about the tobacco plant…? Or white willow?

Some of the plants mentioned in Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History may not have played such a big role as, say, the rubber tree. Or poppies for opium. Nonetheless, the writer’s choice does seem logical. He includes a variety of historical and botanical information, so I intended to read it from front to back, but kept getting distracted when I leafed through and found an interesting plant further on! Each plant is given at least 2 pages – most have 4 pages, with the addition of quotes, prints or pictures. I am glad that the author didn’t try to rank their importance – an impossible task! – and so they are ordered alphabetically, according to their botanical name.

This is an easy and enjoyable way of finding out more about everyday plants – including ones we take for granted, such as wheat. And ones we don’t expect, such as tulips! (Yes, they changed the course of history!)

This book has given me hours of pleasure, browsing; I have learned so much about plants and history, and become more inquisitive!

13 thoughts on “Book Review: Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History

  1. Hey Cathy, Have you read “The Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollan? Interesting and well-written. It is one of my favorites. I will have to check out the fifty plants… Fascinating about the tulip bubble…..too bad some people on Wall Street don’t read more.

  2. Yes I agree about the Botany of Desire it is a really good read, It makes perfect sense for plants to have such an impact on the behavior of man.

  3. Like you I am trying to guess the plants. Will keep an eye open for this on my travels. Have resolved to try and cut down on buying new gardening books this year but maybe the library will oblige. Thanks for the review Kathy 🙂

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