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Tobacco: A Cultural History of How an Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization Paperback – January 3, 2003
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Iain Gately's Tobacco is a sweeping cultural history of the world's most prevalent addiction, and it's probably the best book ever written on its subject. Gately begins in pre-Columbian America, where the natives made tobacco "their most popular gift to the rest of humanity," and continues through all the cantankerous smoking litigation of the 1990s. The story touches on just about every subject imaginable: tobacco in literature, the movies, and society. It would be wrong to call Gately an advocate of smoking, but he clearly takes pleasure, for example, in noting that Hitler's Nazis launched one of history's most vigorous anti-smoking initiatives. The book is full of delicious trivia: Many of Shakespeare's contemporaries smoked, but there's no evidence that the Bard himself did, and none of his plays make any mention of smoking; he "kept his writing a smoke-free zone." Nevertheless, reports Gately with a smirk, there is "archaeological evidence proving that smoking was going on around the Shakespeare household in Stratford-upon-Avon during his life." Smoking aficionados won't want to miss Tobacco, and it's a much healthier gift for them than a box of cigars. --John Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Here it is everything you ever wanted to know about tobacco, from Amerindian prehistory right up to the Clinton/Lewinsky cigar tryst. As Gately traces the role of tobacco in history's major military conflicts and cultural movements, he treats readers to a variety of brief lessons regarding Galenic vs. Chinese medicine, the colonization of the West Indies, the cultivation of tobacco by Australian aboriginals and African tribesmen, Scottish business expansion in the 17th century, the aesthetics of the "narghile" (water pipe) in Asia and much more. He examines both the familiar (peace pipes, chewing tobacco, cigars, cigarettes) and the arcane (techniques for snuffing, tobacco enemas) with appropriate thoroughness. Anyone interested in the origins of the smoking jacket, snuff horns, strike-anywhere matches, meerschaum and briar pipes, or curious about why most signers of the Declaration of Independence were tobacco farmers will not only enjoy this work, but come away with a larger understanding of why tobacco has been so important in human history. While Gately is explicit about the medical risks of tobacco, this global approach stressing the ubiquity of its use suggests it will remain part of our culture for generations to come. With irreverent wit and uncommon grace, Gately shares his enthusiasms with any reader brave enough to buy a book with the demon weed on its cover. A bonus appendix gives readers simple instructions on the cultivation of tobacco at home. Illus. (Jan.)Forecast: Handselling recommended especially to cultural history buffs (and those who reek of you-know-what) since this is a book that might otherwise not get the recognition it deserves.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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The first 200 pages deal with tobacco's history prior to the 20th century - its use for religious and medical purposes, and the two most common methods of use, pipes and snuff.
The remaining 150 pages concern 20th century cigarette use, including the final two chapters which deal with lung cancer and government anti-smoking policies.
I highly recommend this book, but find two faults:
1) There is very little discussion of cigars.
2) This is an American printing of a British book. I would have liked to have read much more about the American tobacco industry of the 20 century.
Most recent customer reviews
This book is exactly that.
"Shall we smoke it? No, no, no... Let the worms eat it. Ho Ho Ho!"