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Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization Paperback – January 3, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Tobacco has been part of human culture for about 18,000 years. It was cultivated in the Andes region about six thousand years ago, and only eventually smoked. "That lungs had a dual function - could be used for stimulation in addition to respiration - is one of the American continent's most significant contributions to civilization." The gift of dried tobacco leaves to Columbus in the Bahamas got thrown overboard; no one knew why the natives were getting rid of their tobacco leaves this way. The British took to snuff, in imitation of the fashionable French, but also smoked with pipes like the ones North American Indians used.Read more ›
Put simply, this is a great read. Years of expensive education taught me less about history than Gately has succeeded in doing in 300 fluent pages. But don't think that this is the kind of book that drags its heels as so many non-fiction books can. It's not so much a roller-coaster ride but rather a non-stop tobaggan run as Gately takes you from tobacco's pre-historical roots to its present position as the world's most heavily consumed addictive commodity. Forget the innocent presumption you had that tobacco has done little for history other than hang around in famous mouths (such as Churchill's, Macarthur's, Raleigh's etc.). If it hadn't been for tobacco's influence then half the historical events of the past five hundred years would have turned out differently or might not even have happened at all.
Gately's also very funny, with a tremendous eye for the amusing or the absurd, and he doesn't hesitate to have a dig at anyone who thinks, talks or looks like a fathead. He also comes up with some memorable descriptions which simply beg to be repeated to friends (e.g. the popularity among various races over the centuries of having nicotine enemas, the idea of which makes my mind boggle). My favourite story is his account of the Hottentot males' coming-of-age and how as a race they declined into 'mono-testicular oblivion'. Read the book to find out why they ended up a ball short.
I don't smoke but halfway through this book I rather wished I did as it seems that non-smokers have been missing out on everything for the last five hundred years.Read more ›
The first sections of the book deal with tobacco's spread from the Americas to the rest of the world and its impact on different societies. Towards the end Gately primarily concentrates on tobacco's history in the US and Britain. Gately is British and apparently doesn't have too firm a grasp on American history, because he makes some errors and oversimplifications from time to time that will jump out at US readers, but that's only a minor distraction. While I could have wished for more discussion of the reasons for the increasing number of smokers in Asia and the Third World, I did enjoy Gately's comparisons of the anti-smoking campaigns in Britain and the US during the 1960s and the 1970s. All in all an interesting look at a plant which shaped our society for both good and ill.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great book if you're curious about or have an interest in Tobacco. The book is written by someone who has a genuine love for the plant so theres no "anti-tobacco" bias or... Read morePublished 3 months ago by David Ravenski
A Fascinating tale of the history of tobacco. Gately paints an intriguing portrait of the corruption of what is turning out to be quite the misunderstood herb. Read morePublished 9 months ago by C. M. Baker
Well researched great presentation wanted a bit more about pipes though, a more thorough discussion of the European tobacco houses would been nicePublished 10 months ago by Salcheech
"Tobacco" offers a fantastic history of tobacco, its cultivation, its use, and its evolving presence in the cultures of the world. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Bryson Mingione
Great book if you want like me to know the history behind the tobacco plant .I was very pleased at the depth of knowledge that I have learned. Read morePublished 13 months ago by M. Springate
Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances known. It is stronger than crack cocaine or heroin. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Jane Derry