Microblog

Microblog, illustration Louis Pasteur dans son laboratoire, Albert Edelfelt
Louis Pasteur dans son laboratoire, par / by Albert Edelfelt

 

Microblog
  • Chili peppers, tomatoes and potatoes Through conquest, by waging war, and, inadvertently, spreading epidemics, the Spanish conquered the New World. The Portuguese came afterward to be followed by the French, the Dutch, the English, and even the Swedes, who had dabbed a bit into transatlantic colonialism. Today, two major producers of grain, Canada and Argentina, grow wheat as their principal crop. Wheat is an old-world crop. It was not known for tens of millennia until the arrival of the Europeans. On the other hand, if you take three Old World nations, let's take a few random ones that start with the letter "I", let's say Ireland, India, and Italy, and think of their national foods, most of us would pick the potato for Ireland, pizza and pasta with tomato sauce for Italy, and hot curry for India. Very few of us realize that for millennia, there were no potatoes in Ireland (until the 18th century), no chilly peppers in India, and no tomatoes in Italy. They are all very recent imports from the New World, the Americas. You must have heard that hot pepper was brought from India to Europe in the Middle Ages. But the truth is that Portuguese traders introduced chili peppers to India in the 1600s. Chili peppers come from America. For millennia, they were unknown in the Eastern Hemisphere. I find that astonishing. ×0
  • On the Importance of Having Allies Even if You Intend to Appropriate All the Glory I am now listening to the lecture series the Conquest of the Americas by Marshall C. Eakin, Ph.D. Professor at Vanderbilt University. I am well past the Caribbean and now got to the conquest of Mexico by Hernán Cortés, an extraordinary lucky and audacious adventurer. I've always known that in the final battle for Tenochtitlan in the year 1521 that finished off the Aztec state, the Spanish force was laughably small. And in fact, it was. Hernán Cortés had only about 1000 Spaniards, 80 horsemen, some arquebusiers, and 16 artillery pieces. That's what most of us read or perhaps remember from our school textbooks. What I did not know, or must have rather somehow overlooked, is the fact that the battle involved half a million participants. This was a veritable Battle of Leipzig, Just one that was perhaps even a little more intense and bloody than the real thing. And that the meager Spanish force of, yes, just 1000, was supplemented by some 200 000 ferocious Indian allies. ×0

 

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