The role and importance of potato in history

How crop overdependence and poverty created the perfect conditions for disaster. Although Conservative Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel continued to allow the export of grain from Ireland to Great Britainhe did what he could to provide relief in and early He authorized the import of corn maize from the United Stateswhich helped avert some starvation.

The role and importance of potato in history

But in the 18th century the tuber was a startling novelty, frightening to some, bewildering to others—part of a global ecological convulsion set off by Christopher Columbus. About million years ago, the world consisted of a single giant landmass now known as Pangaea.

Geological forces broke Pangaea apart, creating the continents and hemispheres familiar today. Over the eons, the separate corners of the earth developed wildly different suites of plants and animals.

Crosby, the historian who first described this process. Compared with grains, tubers are inherently more productive. If the head of a wheat or rice plant grows too big, the plant will fall over, with fatal results.

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Growing underground, tubers are not limited by the rest of the plant. In a Lebanese farmer dug up a potato that weighed nearly 25 pounds.

It was bigger than his head. Corn, another American crop, played a similar but smaller role in southern Europe.

History Magazine - The Impact of the Potato

More than that, as the historian William H. McNeill has argued, the potato led to empire: Equally important, the European and North American adoption of the potato set the template for modern agriculture—the so-called agro-industrial complex.

And when potatoes fell to the attack of another import, the Colorado potato beetle, panicked farmers turned to the first artificial pesticide: Competition to produce ever-more-potent arsenic blends launched the modern pesticide industry.

In the s and s, improved crops, high-intensity fertilizers and chemical pesticides created the Green Revolution, the explosion of agricultural productivity that transformed farms from Illinois to Indonesia—and set off a political argument about the food supply that grows more intense by the day.

It portrayed the English explorer staring into the horizon in familiar visionary fashion. His right hand rested on the hilt of his sword. His left gripped a potato plant. Millions of people who cultivate the earth bless his immortal memory.

The statue was pulled down by Nazis in earlyin the wave of anti-Semitic and anti-foreign measures that followed the violent frenzy known as Kristallnacht. Destroying the statue was a crime against art, not history: Drake almost certainly did not introduce the potato to Europe.

And even if he had, most of the credit for the potato surely belongs to the Andean peoples who domesticated it. Geographically, the Andes are an unlikely birthplace for a major staple crop.

The role and importance of potato in history

The longest mountain range on the planet, it forms an icy barrier on the Pacific Coast of South America 5, miles long and in many places more than 22, feet high. Active volcanoes scattered along its length are linked by geologic faults, which push against one another and trigger earthquakes, floods and landslides.

Even when the land is seismically quiet, the Andean climate is active. Temperatures in the highlands can fluctuate from 75 degrees Fahrenheit to below freezing in a few hours—the air is too thin to hold the heat.

Even as Egyptians built the pyramids, Andeans were erecting their own monumental temples and ceremonial plazas. For millennia, contentious peoples jostled for power from Ecuador to northern Chile.

Most famous today are the Inca, who seized much of the Andes in a violent flash, built great highways and cities splendid with gold, then fell to Spanish disease and Spanish soldiers.The Origin of the Potato The potato was first cultivated in South America between three and seven thousand years ago, though scientists believe they may have grown wild .

Nov 25,  · an update on the historical importance of the potato.

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Posted on November 25, by Philip I have posted before on the important role of the potato in economic growth. Fun Facts About the Potato Potato Facts: Origins of the Potato.

The potato, from the perennial Solanum tuberosum, is the world’s fourth largest food crop, following rice, wheat, and maize. The Inca Indians in Peru were the first to cultivate potatoes around 8, BC to 5, B.C. Aug 21,  · Watch video · However, the significance of the Potato Famine (or, in the Irish language, An Gorta Mor) in Irish history, and its contribution to the .

The potato flower in Louis XVI’s buttonhole, a species that had crossed the Atlantic from Peru, was both an emblem of the Columbian Exchange and one of its most important aspects.

Destroying the statue was a crime against art, not history: Drake almost certainly did not introduce the potato to Europe. And even if he had, most of the credit for the potato surely belongs to the Andean peoples who domesticated it.

USDA ERS - Potatoes