In This Review

Corn and Capitalism: How a Botanical Bastard Grew to Global Dominance
Corn and Capitalism: How a Botanical Bastard Grew to Global Dominance
By Arturo Warman, translated by Nancy L. Westrate
University of North Carolina Press, 2003, 288 pp
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Mexican anthropologist Warman provides an illuminating history of the past 500 years viewed through the evolution and migration of corn, from its original home in the highlands of Mexico to the far corners of the earth -- it reached southern and southwestern China less than four decades after its discovery by Spanish conquerors. Along with other products from the New World -- peanuts, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava, tobacco, and cacao -- corn radically transformed agriculture, and hence society, in many parts of the world. Corn's high yield, ease of cultivation and preparation, high nutritional value, and great storability permitted rapid population growth where it was previously insupportable and made possible the African slave trade on a scale that was historically unimaginable. Corn today cannot propagate without human assistance, and it has been altered through centuries of genetic modification to improve its yield, stamina, and other qualities. It is a remarkable lens through which to view social change over the centuries, proving that globalization is nothing new.