According my potted History of the World, after several attempts over a few thousand years (Greeks, Romans, etc), Europe conquered the world in about 1500. After that time, much of the world fell under Portuguese, Spanish, British, Dutch, or French control. And it remained under European control for the next five centuries until World Wars 1 and 2. The world wars were really European civil wars fought between the European colonial powers and the European non-colonial powers (Germany, Austria, maybe Italy).  After the end of WW2, most of the European colonies gained independence from their European colonial powers, but remained within the sphere of influence of the Western world – primarily under the leadership of the USA, which was one of the first colonies to gain independence.

The European colonisation of the world was a consequence of growing trade between Europe and the rest of the world. Many new products began to appear in Europe. Sugar, coffee, cocoa, tea, tobacco, hemp, cotton, bananas, potatoes, tomatoes, and so on. Europeans established trading stations in many countries, and then needed fortified harbours and fleets to protect merchandise being transported back to Europe. European trade with its colonies was mostly an exchange of raw materials (e.g. sugar, tobacco, coffee, cotton) for manufactured products (tools, weapons, clothes).

I’ve been looking this morning to see where many of the food products originated. Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical South and Southeast Asia. The first coffee plant was found in the mountains of Yemen. The tea plant is an evergreen of the Camellia family that is native to China, Tibet and northern India. The cacao tree is native to the Americas. It originated in Central America and parts of Mexico. Tobacco has long been used in the Americas, with some cultivation sites in Mexico dating back to 1400–1000 BC.  Coca is native to western South AmericaHemp is possibly one of the earliest plants to be cultivated. The Chinese used hemp to make clothes, shoes, ropes, and an early form of paper. Farmers in Southeast Asia and Papua New Guinea first domesticated bananasThe potato was first domesticated in the region of modern-day southern Peru and extreme northwestern Bolivia. Rice originates  from the Pearl River valley region of Ancient China. The tomato is native to western South America and Central America. Pineapple is indigenous to South America and is said to originate from the area between southern Brazil and ParaguayMangoes are native to South Asia. The domestic carrot has a single origin in Central AsiaPepper is native to South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Add that chicken originates in Southeast Asia, East Asia, and South Asia.  All of the commercial domestic turkey varieties today descend from the domestic turkey raised in central Mexico that was subsequently imported into Europe by the Spanish in the 16th century.

From an European perspective, all these plants (except turkey and chicken, of course!) are imports from somewhere else in the world. They’ve all arrived in the past 500 years from somewhere or other. And perhaps that’s why there has been resistance to some of them: they’re immigrants. And perhaps that’s why there’s always been strong resistance to tobacco, hemp, opium, coca, sugar, chocolate (cacao). They’re historically not part of the original culture. Europeans didn’t smoke anything prior to about 1500. So why start now?

Antismoking may be a form of conservatism. Antismokers – and drug warriors of every kind – are always trying to get these various genies back into their bottles. It’s a hopeless task, of course.

I’m always rather surprised that tea and coffee haven’t attracted the attentions of the drug warriors. They’re both psychotropic drugs, after all. And since I drink tea all day, I could easily be described as a tea addict. So why isn’t treated just like the tobacco that I smoke while I drink my tea? Why hasn’t it got health warnings all over it? Is it really that English a custom, to drink tea? Isn’t it more of a fad of recent centuries?

Maybe the modern Western hysteria about diet is the result of having a rapidly growing number of foods? In the past, you ate oatmeal or barley every day. That’s all there was to eat. Now there are any number of foods to choose between. And nobody knows what to eat any more, and in what quantity to eat them.

The degree of rejection of foods is perhaps a function of their relative novelty. What’s called “junk food” seems to refer to either newly-imported foods – Indian, Chinese, Italian – or to fast foods that are quickly cooked or bought over a counter. Again, this is a form of conservatism. During my childhood in England, there weren’t any Indian or Chinese restaurants, nor any Italian pizzerias. Why start eating it now? What was wrong with old-fashioned roast mutton, with boiled turnip and cabbage? And whatever happened to plum pudding and pigeon pie?

We also live in different houses these days. In my childhood, houses had chimneys and were heated with open coal or wood fires. My current modern flat has gas central heating and double glazing, both more or less unheard of a century ago.

In my childhood, I got around on foot, on bicycle, or on buses and trains. Now I have my own car, and never use anything else. And it’s a Japanese car. And cars are demonised almost as much as tobacco or sugar.

Globalisation has been going on for the past 500 years. Tobacco has been being globalised for 500 years, along with tea and coffee and more or less everything else. Globalisation started with Vasco da Gama, the first European to reach India by sea. He probably brought back some curry powder, and the world has never been the same since.

About Frank Davis

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Globalisation

  1. smokingscot says:

    No claim to be an expert on this, however you questioned what the ancient Britons drank prior to tea, coffee, cocoa and such.

    Water, milk, diluted wine and beer – again that could be diluted to make a light stimulating drink. Whiskey was first introduced to the world (frae Scotland) by a friar about 500 years ago.

    And our main sources of starch were the Parsnip, Swede and Turnip. Actually all the root vegetables were excellent as they are so much easier to store through winter. The spud came later, “discovered” by a Spanish chap.

  2. smokingscot says:

    Sorry folks, been slapped round the head for overlooking Cider.

    Also herbal drinks, some with restorative properties that’d shame your standard cuppa char.

    And our wines were not of the grape, gooseberries and such were used.

    Seems many foodstuffs and drinks we enjoy were brought about when we looked for a way to store or preserve them.

  3. I think that before tobacco came to Europe, plants were smoked in Arabian countries and certainly the Inguni Bantu who populated the southern areas of Africa smoked. You would probably find that many cultures ‘smoked’ – just not tobacco!

    • nisakiman says:


      Cannabis plants are believed to have evolved on the steppes of Central Asia, specifically in the regions that are now Mongolia and southern Siberia, according to Warf. The history of cannabis use goes back as far as 12,000 years, which places the plant among humanity’s oldest cultivated crops, according to information in the book “Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years” (Springer, 1980)

      Looks like dope smoking predated tobacco by some margin..

      • Interesting link. In Africa it was a weed along with Datura. I thought it was indigenous. We called it Dagga. It is safer than Datura and indigenous people smoked it, until their land became colonies, and then they were arrested and imprisoned for doing so.

  4. Rose says:

    The chromosomes of Nicotiana africana Merxm.: a recently discovered species

    “The recent discovery of Nicotiana africana Merxm. extended the known natural distribution of the genus to another continent and generated considerable interest in this geographically isolated species. The chromosome complement (2n = 46) consists of two metacentric pairs and 21 pairs of acrocentrics. Four pairs organize nucleoli, but only two pairs have visible secondary constrictions. The distribution of heterochromatin and the karyotype show similarities with species of the Australian section of the genus, Suaveolentes, to which N. africana is related, and also to some American species.”

    The Only African Wild Tobacco, Nicotiana africana: Alkaloid Content and the Effect of Herbivory

    “The principal leaf alkaloid was nornicotine (mean: 28 µg/g dry mass) followed by anabasine (4.9 µg/g) and nicotine (0.6 µg/g).”

    But I’m fairly certain that James 1st, patron saint of anti-smokers had never heard of it, his main concern was that smoking it was unchristian and attempted to defend that view with the worst junk science you’ve ever read based on the theory of the Humours.

    “Based on the theory that natural matter comprised four basic elements, the Greek philosophers came up with the idea that the human body consisted of the four humours, which had to be kept in balance. This theory survived until after AD 1700.”
    http: //

  5. Joe L. says:

    Antismoking may be a form of conservatism. Antismokers – and drug warriors of every kind – are always trying to get these various genies back into their bottles.

    Yes, Progressivism is conservatism on steroids. It relates to the façade of the left-right political spectrum covering up the underlying horseshoe-shaped (or circular) spectrum of authoritarianism.

  6. I gather from this post among many others, Frank, that more than as a conservative, you qualify as a ‘uchronist’, uchronia being the exploration / imagining of alternative historical scenarios. Foremost in your mind, rather that what you experienced and enjoyed in the decades prior to the smoking ban, is what living in England 2007-2017 would have been like, had not the evil actions of the zealots definitively stolen it from you.
    In short, longing, not pining for something. This sort of wistfulness is more forward-looking than your common-or-garden nostalgia and imbued with a potential dynamism the latter is devoid of, making it hopelessly sterile and inoperative.

    • Frank Davis says:

      “Uchronist” is a new word to me. I found a reference to it under poetic transrealism (which is also a new word for me).

      Transrealism in poetry or uchronism, according to this poetic movement’s father, the Chilean poet Sergio Badilla Castillo, is created upon a transposition of time, which means that temporary scenes merge, in the textual corpus, and in this way linear coherence between the past, the present and the future is interrupted and reality turns into a kind of derivation or timeless link to a beyond-time, where poetic pictures and actions are represented or performed. This is how the temporal idea acquires a parachronic character or parachrony.

      Another element of this transience is uchrony starting from a point in the past where something happened, in a different way or as it has happened, in reality (what could have been but wasn’t), in material temporality, but nevertheless is possible to express itself as an element situated in abstract space, supported by the theories of Einstein and Planck, regarding the spacetime combination.

      And transrealism:

      Transrealism is a literary mode that mixes the techniques of incorporating fantastic elements used in science fiction with the techniques of describing immediate perceptions from naturalistic realism. While combining the strengths of the two approaches, it is largely a reaction to their perceived weaknesses. Transrealism addresses the escapism and disconnect with reality of science fiction by providing for superior characterization through autobiographical features and simulation of the author’s acquaintances. It addresses the tiredness and boundaries of realism by using fantastic elements to create new metaphors for psychological change and to incorporate the author’s perception of a higher reality in which life is embedded. One possible source for this higher reality is the increasingly strange models of the universe put forward in theoretical astrophysics.

      I suppose that I might be a bit of a transrealist with my orbital simulation model, which is a piece of Newtonian mechanics (and therefore realistic), but which I use to explore other imaginary possibilities (such as whether asteroids may have accompanying rock clouds). I have found, using my model, that a rock travelling 25 million km behind the asteroid 2012 DA14 could have passed close to the Earth in 2009, and arrived over Chelyabinsk on the morning of 15 Feb 2013, the same day that 2012 DA14 also passed close to the Earth. If any evidence of its existence is discovered, it would cease to be an imaginary rock

      I’m not sure what’s transrealist about my essay on globalisation, however. Except I suppose I was considering what life might have been like had neither Vasco da Gama sailed to India, nor Columbus to America, and nobody smoked.

No need to log in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.