Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History – Book Review

We take plants for granted – but they have had a major influence on our lives.  In this book, Bill Laws looks at fifty plants which have truly changed the course of history – from cotton to tea, wheat to grapes.  The less well known are also covered such as hops, ginger, tulips, sugarcane, black pepper and indigo. 

For each plant covered, an outline of its history is provided, together with an explanation as to its historic importance.  As Laws shows, plants have not always proved a happy event for everyone – the arrival of cotton and sugar cane made a tremendous difference to diet and clothing for many people – but it also meant slavery for others.

The tremendous journeys that plants have made are charted -apples first began to be traded 1,500 years ago. Since then apples have become a favorite fruit, eaten all over the world and even helped Newton discover the secret of gravity. It shows too, how little the use of some plants has changed – rose oil is just as desirable a perfume today as it was nearly three thousand years ago.   

This is an unusual, but very fascinating book. It is not an easy read, you need to concentrate all the way through.  There is so much detail, so much information that at times you have to stop just to digest it.  I really enjoyed this book – it is well worth reading.