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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fascinating
I found this book in the library of the high school where I teach. It is now out of print, so copies are hard to find. But anyone interested in the history of Western civilization, heirloom plants and/or of the influence of various crops on world history and politics should read this book. There is a chapter on the introduction of wine to North America, fascinating...
Published on December 29, 2002

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Varied Collection of Essays
This book is a collection of essays about various topics relating to indigenous food, people, and history of the Americas, particularly North American and the Caribbean. The volume was put together to accompany a special exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in 1992. The stated intent was "to interpret the true meaning of...
Published on March 16, 2007 by Erika Mitchell


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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fascinating, December 29, 2002
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I found this book in the library of the high school where I teach. It is now out of print, so copies are hard to find. But anyone interested in the history of Western civilization, heirloom plants and/or of the influence of various crops on world history and politics should read this book. There is a chapter on the introduction of wine to North America, fascinating anecdotes on the difficulty and eventual success of introducing the potato to European tables, the value of maize in Africa, and many other little-known but very important facts about the changing foodways in our history. It's great reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to topic for anyone, January 26, 2006
I bought this book after seeing the original exhibit many years ago at the Smithsonian. The book stands alone and is a wonderful introduction to the topic of the impact of food on history for anyone. You do not have to be a scientist or an historian to read, comprehend and enjoy. The book contains a great deal of information on the migration of New World food crops to the Old World and their impact, as well as chapters on Africa and American Indians and case studies on Montserrat and Antiqua. The illustrations are plentiful and varied from contemporary color photography to historic photographs to historic illustrations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Varied Collection of Essays, March 16, 2007
This book is a collection of essays about various topics relating to indigenous food, people, and history of the Americas, particularly North American and the Caribbean. The volume was put together to accompany a special exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in 1992. The stated intent was "to interpret the true meaning of Columbus five hundred years after that fateful day when the Admiral of the Ocean Sea stepped ashore in the Bahamas and unwittingly changed the course of world history." Topics covered include: American food crops, the importance of American wild grape root stock for vineyards worldwide, the slave trade, modern Hispanic American cultural traditions, and health and disease in Pre-Columbian North America. The book is amply illustrated with numerous color photographs and reproductions of maps and paintings. End material includes a topical list of suggested readings and an index.

I found the articles to be extremely varied and a bit uneven in their writing. Each article was written by a different author; some present information that is inconsistent with other articles in the same volume, or even inconsistent with themselves. For example, McNeill writes early in his article on American food crops that manioc came from the Americas, but much later in his article, terms manioc an African staple, together with millet and sorghum, distinct in origin from the American crops of maize and sweet potato. Some of the articles address the topics of the Smithsonian exhibition directly, but others seem barely relevant for such a volume. The article on grape vines, for instance, is mostly about the modern wine industry, and the history of the industry in California. The book concludes with an article by Steven King and Liliana Campos Dudley on threats to the environment of US civilization. They note "Viewed by some as the most advanced nation in the world, the United States pursues a high-consumption life-style that, if it continues, will be significantly responsible for exhausting the earth's raw materials and life-support systems." They go on to note that biotechnology gives us cause for hope, and give several examples of genetically modified potatoes and corn as "welcome news"! All in the all, the photography is magnificent, and a few of the articles provide interesting reading, but the book makes a better coffee table decoration than reference.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb geo-cultural history, March 18, 2014
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For anyone as fascinated as I am about how plants and foodcrops have moved around our planet and transformed societies and whole continents in the process, this is the volume you want on your shelf. Oversized, with well designed pages and a visually interesting mix of text, graphics and maps, the Smithsonian seemingly let all the stops out when they commissioned the collection of articles that make up this volume. As relevant today as twenty years ago. Works great as either a good read or equally good text for any adventurous History class.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate invasive species story, January 27, 2013
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This review is from: Seeds of Change (Paperback)
A fascinating look at the greatest biological collision in history, as the plants and animals of the Old and New Worlds encountered each other. This series of very well researched essays trace the aftershocks across the world, as Old World livestock conquered the range, and Native food plants boosted supplies from Europe to China. Seldom have the histories of corn, pigs, potatoes, cows, tomatoes, or sheep been explored in such an insightful, dramatic way.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A meeting of worlds, March 5, 2007
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Newton Ooi (Phoenix, Arizona United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Seeds of Change (Paperback)
One of the most important events in human history was the Columbus landing in the New World in 1492. One of the most important aspects of this initial encounter and those that followed it was the exchange of species across the ocean. These species include but are not limited to the horse, potato, sugarcane, maize, tobacco, and corn. This book, published at the 500th anniversary of the 1492 landing, examines how these exchange of species has transformed societies on both sides of the Atlantic. Tie-ins with later events are carefully explained, such as the growth of slavery to work on the sugar cane and tobacco farms. The book is actually a compilation of essays, and each essay can be read separate from the others, and each is well-referenced. Altogether, a good book on an important subject.
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Seeds of Change
Seeds of Change by Herman J. Viola (Paperback - Feb. 1992)
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