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Indian Givers

Indian GiversIndian Givers by Jack Weatherford is a thought-provoking look at ways contact with Native Americans changed the face of the rest of the world.  For example, Weatherford suggested that the new crops of potatoes and cotton from the Americas were the driving force behind Industrialization.  The addition of potatoes to the European diet reduced the amount of grain grown, which in turn left many mills idle.  At the same time, cotton replaced wool as the fiber of choice for making clothes.  Farmers were able to produce a lot more cotton than wool since sheep require considerable acreage to graze on, so the bottleneck in the clothing production process shifted from land to manpower.  Wait, didn't we have a bunch of idle mills lying around just waiting to power a clothing factory?  From the union of potatoes and cotton, Industrialization was born.

The book is full of other agricultural (and non-agricultural) tidbits like the war that almost broke out between Peru and the young U.S.A over access to guano for fertilizer, or the tale of how feeding corn to livestock increased Europeans' dietary intake of animal products and caused a population boom.  On the other hand, many of the author's arguments felt a bit over-simplified and biased toward giving complete credit to the Native Americans, and after I found a few botanical flaws in the book I started to wonder how carefully the author had done his research.  So don't take anything in this book as gospel, but do read it as a good way to open your eyes to parts of world history you might have missed learning about in school.

Getting ready to start chicks this spring?  Our homemade chicken waterer works for chicks from day 1, preventing drowning and diseases.


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