13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
how America may have made a new Europe,
This review is from: Sacred Gifts, Profane Pleasures: A History of Tobacco and Chocolate in the Atlantic World (Paperback)
Norton's well-researched, beautifully illustrated monograph treats an intriguing subject: how Native Americans used tobacco and chocolate before European contact, how and what Europeans learned about these substances, how tobacco and chocolate were introduced to Europe, and what cultural valences tobacco and chocolate shed, gained, or kept in the process. Norton argues that tobacco and chocolate arrived in Europe with strong connotations from their social and religious uses in the Americas, and that Europeans' knowledge of indigenous uses of these substances influenced how they were used in Europe. I found Norton's argument partly but not fully convincing. While she clearly demonstrates that early Spanish colonizers learned about Native American uses of tobacco and chocolate, and that traditional uses of tobacco and chocolate persisted in indigenous communities long after European contact, it seems that by the time these substances were well-established in Europe (which didn't really happen until the seventeenth century), their connection to traditional American uses was pretty tenuous. Norton's theoretical framework strikes me as heavy-handed, and some of her assertions as a little overblown. (My favorite line, apropos early modern Spain: "A day without chocolate came to be viewed as one of great suffering" (p. 195).) To my mind, Sacred Gifts doesn't quite live up to its excellent reviews. Still, it's an important work on the history of tobacco and chocolate; if you have a serious interest in the worldwide diffusion of those substances, don't miss it.