Bill Laws's Fifty Plants that Changed the Course of History Reviewed By Allan Becker of
Allan Becker

Reviewer Allan Becker: Allan has been designing and planting flower gardens, since he was a teenager in the 1960's. Now retired from the soft goods industry, where he held several positions in design, product development, and marketing, he has turned his passion for gardening into a second career, as a garden designer for private clients in Montreal, Canada.

In spring and summer, he provides his assistants, most college students, who transform his designs into flower gardens. In winter, he reviews books on garden-related topics for and writes a Gardening Blog.

Allan earned a B.A. from McGill University, followed by two years of studies in design at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia). He lives in the Montreal suburb of Cote St. Luc, Quebec with his wife and travels regularly to Toronto and Boston to visit his children and grandchildren.

By Allan Becker
Published on April 16, 2011

Author: Bill Laws

Publisher: Firefly Books

ISBN:- 13: 978-1-55407-798-4

Author: Bill Laws

Publisher: Firefly Books

ISBN:- 13: 978-1-55407-798-4

Click Here To Purchase Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History

I have just read a gripping saga, written by social historian Bill Laws. Ostensibly, it’s about plants, but actually, it’s about us. This is a collection of short pieces that detail how plants have influenced human behavior and, ultimately, the course of history. By chronicling the commercial activity surrounding the discovery and marketing of the food we eat and the beverages we drink, the author describes how those activities impacted wars, political boundaries, habits, social behavior, and addictions. While I might have been reading what appeared to be an encyclopedia of plants, in fact, I was delving into an immensely fascinating epic of western civilization. No sooner had I completed an exciting chapter about one plant, when I could hardly wait to begin reading about the next

The influence that plants have had on our lives is noticeable today when we think about the amount of fossil fuel we consume, the large number of botanical gardens constructed around the world, and the considerable investments we make in our own gardens. But that is only a small part of the bigger story. The author identifies 50 plants that have altered the history of life on earth. Here are just a few tid-bits:-

  • The discovery of the pineapple in the New World inspired the invention of the green house in Europe.

  • Hemp was used to manufacture the paper used to write the American Declaration of Independence.

  • Agave is used in the manufacture of bullets.

  • Coconut is integral to making sterile I.V. drips.

  • The opium poppy transformed the history of China. .

  • Trade in black pepper created a need for banking.

  • Peoples’ craving for sugar influenced the growth of the slave trade.

  • The French revolution may be traced to the significance of bread and a poor wheat harvest.

  • 8,800 pounds of mulberry leaves are needed to feed silkworms to supply enough yarn to make one blouse.

  • Coffee is indirectly responsible for the Boston Tea Party and Harry Potter.

  • Cotton uses only 3% of the world’s farmland but 25% of the world’s pesticides.

  • A painting of sunflowers changed the art world

  • Fire-resistant uniforms are manufactured using Eucalyptus.

The author reports that in addition to influencing the course of history, some plants have also caused self destructive behavior. Many people have done themselves harm from the weight gained by overeating sugar and from plant - based narcotics or alcohol. Others have damaged their bodies by inhaling nicotine and drinking spirits. On balance though, we experience safe pleasures from plants by drinking tea, wine and inhaling the fragrance of flowers.

Reading this book is better than watching a documentary. It runs at a fast paced clip from one plant to another, constantly revealing fascinating details about civilization, economics, and above all, human nature.

Click Here To Purchase Fifty Plants That Changed the Course of History