Cultivation? Who will be interested in that except for a few? I should have known better. Peter Thoday lets us in on a secret, the discovery of which feels like a delicious pleasure. This magnificent book is a total delight. Holding his deep scholarship lightly, Peter takes you on an adventure through the history of cultivation. It drips with quotations and anecdote, from ancient Mesopotamia to the latest in micropropagation, from social history to science, but what he has done is quite remarkable. He has taken a subject and turned it on its head. This isn’t a book for gardeners, no, it is a book for anyone with any pretence to themselves being cultivated. For here, laid bare, is the history of our peoples and a signpost to the future told by the land. The master storyteller catches you off-guard. Here is a tale of profound importance that should be read by everyone. A life’s work and interest lovingly revealed — an instant classic. — Tim Smit, CEO, The Eden Project
This is a compelling read. This book provides a journey from man’s earliest attempts to harness the land through all the myriads of developments in crop husbandry and innovations which have shaped the way modern systems of crop production are carried out and which have shaped much of our landscape today. Peter Thoday confirms the view that “in spite of all our civil engineering and large-scale industrial works the farmer remains the person that has by far the greatest impact on the landscape”. The journey takes us from man’s first attempts to domesticate plants and grow them for food, through gradual improvements in cultivation techniques and increasing use of implements that have enabled crops to be grown more effectively and efficiently. The book shows us how these developments have led ultimately to the intensive methods that we use today and how these could change in the future.