...THAT DONALD TRUMP IS ALMOST, BUT NOT QUITE, THE ‘HEAVIEST’ PRESIDENT IN AMERICAN HISTORY.
Last week, President Donald J. Trump had his annual health check up with physician Dr. Sean Conley. Despite being labeled by Dr. Conley as “...in very good health”, the President had increased his weight by 4 pounds (not quite 2 kilograms) since his last checkup. At 243 pounds, and 6 feet 3 inches, Donald Trump’s BMI index is 30.4. This pushes him into the category of ‘obese’.
Since this is a history blog and not a nutritionist website, the healthiness or otherwise of this information will be left to experts. Having said this, historically-speaking, Trump is a heavy US president. He is, however, not the heaviest. That dubious honor goes to William Howard Taft.
President William Howard Taft
The 5 ft 11 inch 27th president of the United States was well over 350 pounds (nearly 160 kilograms) and had, according to a Forbes article entitled, A History of Fat Presidents, and written by Erik Kain, a BMI of 42.3. Despite the - most likely apocryphal - story of him getting stuck in the bathtub, President Taft was the first President of the United States to be advised by his physicians to go on a diet. With more than a minor penchant for steak, often breakfasting on the delicacy, it should come as no surprise that, even during an era when there was little societal pressure to diet, Taft was thought to be in need of a more ‘restrictive’ daily menu. Incidentally, Taft did die in his bathtub - but one that he had specially installed to accommodate his size. After his death, the media, who had ceaselessly mocked him for the size of his bathtub, became less...mean.
President William Howard Taft's bathtub.
President Taft’s physician, Dr. Nathaniel E. Yorke Davies, hailed from Lanrwst, north Wales, and was the son of the Headmaster at Lanrwst Grammar School. By all accounts, Yorke Davies was something of a nutritionist guru of the age - publishing a number of best-selling books on diet and exercise that captured the imagination of the time. His most popular book was Foods for the Fat: A Treatise on Corpulency. According to a New York Times article, entitled In Struggle With Weight, Taft Used a Modern Diet, the diet as advised by Dr. Yorke Davies, seems to have been such that modern Americans would find much in it that is familiar.
The term ‘obese’ is very much a word belonging to the latter half of the 20th century - it replaced the equally unsettling, ‘corpulence’. According to the previously cited Forbes article, A History of Fat Presidents, the list of ‘Great Presidents’ as adjudged by Arthur Schlesinger Jr, seems to suggest that the corpulence of presidents is actually something of a boon to their historical ‘greatness’. Prior to the election of Donald J. Trump, the most ‘obese’ presidents were (in descending order) Taft, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Zachary Taylor, then Theodore Roosevelt. According to the BMI, President Trump would bump McKinley into fourth place.
Taft enjoyed a ride.
Dr. Elliott L. Watson
...That pigeons helped win wwii.
While back in the UK over the most recent holidays my family and I were in the vicinity of Bletchley Park and so, as an indulgence to me, we decided to pay a visit. On visiting I was expecting to learn some nuggets about the mechanics of ciphers, codebreaking or the mechanics of the early calculating machine, the bombe. However, that my takeaway memory was provided courtesy of the Royal Pigeon Racing Association was something of a surprise.
Attaching small messages to a bird in the form of a scroll and then allowing the bird to fly home has been a method of sending messages for a long time. Records of this date back to the Romans and possibly the Persians, but this practice has disappeared more recently than you might think.
Pigeon post was very widespread in WWI and the stories of some of the more famous birds like the wooden-legged Cher Ami, are relatively well known. As a History teacher I have included them in lessons on WWI. Students are very often to hear of the scale of animals’ involvement in WWI with horses being the ‘backbone’ of transportation through much of the war; indeed the war saw the death of some 8 million horses!
After WWI however, surely the widespread adoption of radio, telephone lines and technology made such ‘old-school’ methods as homing pigeons redundant? Not so, as I discovered to my surprise. During WWII, a conflict which saw such incredibly advanced technology as the atomic bomb, pilotless V2 rockets and radar, pigeons still played a mainstream role. Something of the order of 250,000 birds were used by the UK alone. Each and every RAF bomber took one with them on missions! Nor was this a solely British phenomenon, with virtually every nation and theatre of war seeing their widespread use.
One could argue that this shows we should not discount analogue solutions so readily and, as I did, assume technology renders them otiose. However, it also serves to remind me that you never know what you will find as you get out and explore the History on your doorstep.
To discover more about the role of pigeons in war visit https://www.rpra.org/pigeon-history/
...your ancestors could choose death by crushing instead of entering a plea in court! but why would they?
If your English ancestors stood trial for a crime in a court of law prior to 1772, the potential punishments - if convicted - could be extremely severe. For instance, when the Gunpowder Plotters were convicted of ‘high treason’ against King James I, they were hung, drawn and quartered. The potential punishments for those convicted of a crime during the Tudor and Stuart era could include - but were not limited to - being beheaded, death by hanging and being put in the stocks, depending on the severity of the crime committed.
If prosecuted in a court of law for a capital offence (e.g: murder or treason) during the reign of King George III or a monarch preceding him, your English ancestors would have been faced with a simple choice. To plead ‘guilty’ or ‘innocent’ of the stated crime. Right? Actually, it’s wrong!
The choice of plea facing the accused at the start of the trial was not actually a simple binary between ‘innocent’ on the one hand and ‘guilty’ on the other. There was a THIRD option! This is where things get slightly complex. We can safely assume that a plea of ‘guilty’ in a trial for a capital offence would have meant almost certain conviction, death and the subsequent forfeiture of all land and property owed to the Crown. A plea of ‘innocent’ would have either resulted in the previous outcome or, if one was lucky, an acquittal (although this was unlikely in treason cases as these were often a fait accompli).
The third option would have appealed to those with significant estates and wealth. To avoid the seizure of all property and estates by the Crown, the accused could refuse to enter a plea. This could result in what was known as peine forte et dure. In English, this meant ‘hard and forceful punishment’. This involved the defendant being subjected to crushing by increasingly heavier rocks; the idea being to elicit a plea from the defendant, which would then result in the trial being resumed. However, if the accused perished during the ‘crushing’ process, they would technically die as an ‘innocent’ person. Therefore, the ‘next of kin’ could inherit the wealth of the deceased, rather than it being seized for the Crown. So, until 1772, the wealthier the defendant in a capital offence, the more incentive they had to refuse to enter a plea. The past was indeed a strange place.
Patrick O'Shaughnessy (@historychappy)
...THAT NAGASAKI WAS NOT THE ORIGINAL TARGET OF THE SECOND ATOM BOMB IN JAPAN.
Mushroom cloud over Nagasaki. (US gov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
At 8.15am on August 6th 1945, a B-29 Superfortress from the 393rd Bombardment Squadron called the Enola Gay - named after the mother of its pilot, Paul Tibbets - released a bomb carrying 64kg of uranium 235. After just under 45 seconds of freefall, Little Boy - this was the name of the atom bomb - detonated at 580 metres above the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Close to 80,000 civilians died instantly.
When the Japanese Imperial Army refused to capitulate, a meeting on the US-controlled Pacific island of Guam, including such military luminaries as General Curtis Lemay and Rear-Admiral William R. Purnell, was convened to determine the next move. With no Japanese surrender forthcoming, the ‘next move’ was adjudged to be the dropping of a plutonium-based weapon, codenamed Fat Man (named by Robert Serber of the Manhattan Project after a character in The Maltese Falcon) over the city of Kokura. Kokura, in the south west of Japan was, incidentally, the secondary target had Hiroshima been cloud-covered on the 6th of August. Now it was the primary target.
'Fat Man' being sprayed with plastic on the island of Tinian
At just after 3.45am on the 9th of August, another B-29 Superfortress - this time named Bockscar - took off from the island of Tinian in the Pacific Ocean, loaded with Fat Man, and headed towards the Kokuran military arsenal. After rendezvousing with support planes above Yakushima Island, Bockscar flew onto Kokura. For a good portion of the final months of the war in the Pacific, the USAF had been firebombing the mostly wooden cities of Japan in the hopes of causing such terrible civilian casualties and damage to property that the High Command would be forced into surrender. During the previous day, American bombs had set fire to the nearby city of Yahata. The smoke that continued to billow from the city obscured the primary target of Kakura such that, despite three bombing runs above the target, the Bockscar could find no opening in the cloud cover. As a result, the secondary target was selected. Nagasaki, and not Kokura, would bear the brunt of history’s atomic age.
B-29 Superfortress, Bockscar. (ASAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Two minutes before any clock in Kokura struck 11am, Fat Man fell from Bockscar. 43 seconds later, one gram of matter (from the 6.19kg of plutonium) was converted into heat and radiation 500 metres above the ground. Approximately 40,000 Japanese people died almost immediately. The number of deaths would have been far higher had it not been for the mountainous topography of Kokura which helped shield some residents from the blast. As it was, tens of thousands died from leukaemia and other radiation-related illnesses, as well as the fires that raged long after.
Atomic cloud over Nagasaki from Koyagi-jima(Hiromichi Matsuda (松田 弘道, ?-1969) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Dr Elliott L. Watson
Every Briton who has studied the Tudors would be able to tell you that the first Tudor King, Henry VII, became King because he killed Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. Thus far they would be correct, but if they were to say this ended the Wars of the Roses they would be wrong on a number of counts.
Firstly, and perhaps most simply, the Battle of Bosworth was not the last battle in the struggle between York and Lancaster. Even after Henry had married Elizabeth of York in 1486, thereby supposedly uniting the two Houses, he had to fight to hold his throne. In 1487, with Henry having been on the throne for two years, a sizable Yorkist army of 8,000 was mustered, sailed from Ireland to Lancaster and thence marched into the Midlands. This army was gathered in support of the claim of Lambert Simnel (or Edward of Warwick if we believe the “pretender’s” claims). Simnel’s forces were comprehensively beaten at the Battle of Stoke, but clearly Bosworth was not the conclusive end to the conflict between the two Houses which is in our popular imagination.
Moreover, even the Battle of Stoke cannot be considered the end of the struggle. This is not just because there were further pretenders to the throne, such as Perkin Warbeck, championing the Yorkist cause, but rather because the Wars of the Roses never happened.
In Henry VI Part 1, he has nobles pluck a flower as a badge of their allegiance:
Let him that is a true-born gentleman
And stands upon the honour of his birth,
If he suppose that I have pleaded truth,
From off this brier pluck a white rose with me.
Let him that is no coward nor no flatterer,
But dare maintain the party of the truth,
Pluck a red rose from off this thorn with me.
I love no colours, and without all colour
Of base insinuating flattery
I pluck this white rose with Plantagenet.
I pluck this red rose with young Somerset
And say withal I think he held the right.
However, the white and red roses were not universal symbols of Lancaster and York in the mid fifteenth century. Instead, the white rose was only one of many symbols associated with York; with the yellow sun being more common and Richard I fighting under a white boar. For Lancaster there is even less evidence of the red rose being a defining symbol. Instead, the Lancastrians tended to fight under royal coats of arms, with only the household servants using the red rose for demarcation. Henry VII seemingly adopted the red rose out of symbolic convenience when he married Elizabeth of York. Thus allowing him to create a visual symbol of the union of the Houses in the Tudor Rose.
By using the term the Wars of the Roses, we then are unwittingly utilising and propagating Henry VII’s propaganda. He would be very happy to hear us use it, even if those who lived through the Wars themselves would be rather perplexed.
…THAT KING HENRY VIII DID NOT HAVE SIX WIVES.
Ok, hopefully that got your attention.
It is mostly the case that the study of History requires a degree of contextual empathy that is often lacking in the manner by which the subject is taught - particularly when that subject is a supposedly ‘well known’ one. As in the case of King Henry VIII. Too often we are guilty of examining the subject from our ‘future’ vantage point and looking backwards in time, examining it, if you will, at a ‘contextual distance’ and not from the contingent perspective of the time occupied by the subject. It is often easier to merely repeat the basic historical tropes - Henry VIII had six wives - than it is to evaluate their authenticity. Putting it in a simpler form, if you were king Henry VIII, in the 16th Century, how would you have replied to the following question, presuming that it had been put to you at the end of your reign: “How many wives did you have, sire?”. The authentic reply would most likely have been, “I have had three wives”.
Without exploring the semantics embedded within the language of marriage too deeply, the key difference (as I see it) between the History we can often be taught in school versus the contemporary experiences as they were lived at the time, is distilled perfectly, microcosmically-speaking, in the difference between two words: annulment and divorce. Only one of these are we routinely taught when exploring Henry and his ‘wives’: divorce.
A divorce is the legal dissolution of a valid marriage - an acknowledgement that there used to be a marriage, and always will have been one in the eyes of the law and therefore of history; an annulment, is a legal recognition that a marriage was never valid in the first place and thus never actually existed - both legally and historically. Of course, the language of annulment is very clearly designed to create a legal and historical ‘resetting of the clock back to zero’, so that whatever follows, maritally-speaking, will always take precedence over what has gone before. Which, technically, is nothing.
Cardinal Wolsey laboured unsuccessfully to get Henry an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Thomas Cromwell was able to get the annulment, but ultimately fell foul of Henry's executioner.
Both Thomas Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell expended great energies navigating the legal language of their king’s ‘marriages’. And with particular reason. The semantic and legal tenor of the word 'annulment' was incredibly helpful for King Henry because he needed to void any claim of Mary (the child he shared with Catherine of Aragon) and Elizabeth (the child he shared with Anne Boleyn) to the Tudor throne. He needed a male heir - which was provided to him by Jane Seymour the moment she gave birth to Edward.
And so, if Henry had been asked in the year of his death how many wives he had had, he almost certainly would have replied (particularly having irreparably altered the legal and religious landscape of England by his marital maneuverings) that his first wife was Jane Seymour, his second was Catherine Howard, and the third and final was Catherine Parr. He would, no doubt, claim that he had never actually been married to either Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn or Anne of Cleves. Legally, and thus historically, speaking, he never was.
By saying that Henry had six wives instead of three, while simultaneously using the historically redundant noun ‘divorce’ in our teaching of the subject, we may be guilty of historical laziness at best, or historical disingenuity at worst.
Dr. Elliott L. Watson
On 4 July 1776, the Thirteen Colonies of British North America withdrew their allegiance to King George III in the Declaration of Independence. The fighting that ensued between the British and the American Patriots was bitter, costly and was considered to be a ‘civil war’ by the British. Hence, no British Army regiment was ever awarded battle honours for their role in the conflict. The American Revolutionary War rumbled on until 25 November 1783, when the final remnants of the British Army were evacuated from Manhattan, New York.
However, while the Declaration of Independence accuses the British King of establishing an “...absolute Tyranny over these States”, you may be surprised to learn that six of the original thirteen colonies of British North America took their names from British monarchs.
Therefore, in a sense, the connection between America and its former monarchy lives on (in name only), some 243 years after independence.
Patrick O'Shaughnessy (@historychappy)
...the black death was actually a good thing
If you know anything about the Black Death, it is most likely that it was a horrible disease that killed huge numbers of people right across Europe a long time ago. This is certainly true, but did you know that (so long as you escaped the illness) it actually hugely improved life for most people in Britain?
In the year 1348 a terrible condition began to strike people in England and rampaged through the nation for the next four years. A contemporary description by Giovanni Boccaccio gives us a graphic view of the horrors of the disease which
“began both in men and women with certain swellings in the groin or under the armpit. They grew to the size of a small apple or an egg, more or less, and were vulgarly called tumours. In a short space of time these tumours spread from the two parts named all over the body. Soon after this the symptoms changed and black or purple spots appeared on the arms or thighs or any other part of the body, sometimes a few large ones, sometimes many little ones. These spots were a certain sign of death, just as the original tumour had been and still remained”
To catch the disease was clearly extremely painful and unpleasant, but also fatal in most cases. Estimates of the casualty rate in England range from one third of the population to roughly half. On a national level it was a disaster. This was perhaps most obvious for those who caught the disease. However, with such a high mortality rate everybody would have close family and friends struck down and been affected in the most harrowing way.
Yet, the survivors of the disease actually found their lives materially improved in the second half of the fourteenth century. With such a high proportion of the population removed, and therefore the available pool of labour shrunk radically, peasants, as the majority of the population were, found themselves in demand. Statistical data is inevitably patchy, but the laws passed by the government in the wake of the Black Death reveal the increased value in peasants’ labour.
The Ordinance of Labourers, a law of 1349, stated that when hiring workers
“no man pay, or promise to pay, any servant any more wages, liveries, meed, or salary than was wont, as afore” (before the plague)
As well as attempting to freeze wages the Ordinance also placed a price freeze on staple foodstuffs such as meat, fish and bread as well as the price that could be charged by skilled craftsmen such as smiths.
Fortunately for the labourers of England, evidence suggests this law was unsuccessful. It was followed up by another legal attempt to restrain prices in 1351 called the Statute of Labourers, but neither of these seem to have had a large impact; as many economists will tell you, market forces can be hard to control. In his seminal work Making a Living in the Middle Ages, Chris Dyer states that “the rise in wages was at first modest, and striking improvement often came in the last quarter of the fourteenth century”.
So there it is. If you were an agricultural labourer, as most Englishmen were, and you survived the Black Death, you could gain a little more coin for your hard labours and perhaps find it a little easier to put food on the table for yourself and your family.
Smoking tobacco is an addictive, dangerous and expensive habit. It can be potentially ruinous to the health of the smoker and those around them via the vehicle of passive smoking. In the UK, tobacco products cannot be advertised. Nor can they be visibly displayed on the shop floor of your local supermarket or convenience store. Needless to say, due to the ever-increasing public awareness about the negative health implications associated with tobacco smoke (and the relatively high cost of the tobacco products themselves), the number of people who regularly smoke in the UK is in a steady period of decline. However, if you have English ancestry dating back to the 17th century and the Stuart-era, then the chances are that at least one of them smoked tobacco imported from the Americas. Moreover, they may well have believed that tobacco was actually good for them!
"In the late 16th- and 17th-century in England tobacco was thought to be a panacea that was universally good for the body." (Jennifer Evans, 2019, History Today)
Tobacco was first imported to England during the Tudor period (pre-1603) from the Americas. When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, leaving no heir, the Scottish Protestant King James VI, was invited to become King James I of England. His reign witnessed many key historical events: the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 and the journey of the Pilgrim Fathers on the Mayflower to the 'New World' in 1620, to name but two. It also witnessed an exponential growth in the importation of tobacco products from the Americas to feed rising demand. Interestingly, King James actually detested smoking, while simultaneously craving the source of revenue that it raised for the coffers of the Crown:
"A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black, stinking fume thereof, nearest resembling the horrible Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless." (King James I)
Clearly, King James understood the dangers associated with this newly imported habit. When English colonists arrived in Virginia on the east coast of the modern United States of America in the very late 16th and early 17th century, the majority had hoped to 'strike it rich' by finding a bountiful supply of gold and precious metals. When no such find was readily forthcoming, the English colonists slowly but surely switched to tobacco as a source of revenue. The cultivation of the tobacco plant required a vast pool of labour to undertake the grim, repetitive and burdensome work on the plantations. Initially, white indentured labour was used, but this soon gave way to slave labour, with Africans being forced into service under horrific and barbaric conditions. As the number of English smokers during the Stuart-era grew, so the amount of tobacco produced and exported to England rose exponentially to satisfy the rising demand.
"By 1670 half the adult male population of England used small pipes made from clay to smoke tobacco on a regular basis." (James Evans, 2018, Why the English Sailed to the New World)
Given that in 1570 very few English people would have been exposed to the leaf that emitted the infamous 'stinking fume', this represents a significant growth amongst a population of just over 5 million people by 1650. Therefore, if you have English ancestry dating back to the Stuart-era, it is highly likely that at least one of your forefathers took up the habit of smoking between 1603 and 1714. To take this a step further, you may well have English ancestors that emigrated to the American colonies during this time to participate in the tobacco production process, either directly or by supplying its feeder industries. Approximately 10% of the English population left for the American colonies between 1600 and 1700. While a significant proportion of English migration to the American colonies at this time was fuelled by religious motives, for those such as the family of George Washington the provision of tobacco products to the mother country may have also been a significant financial incentive to make the 3000-mile journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
Executive director of trance hotels, graduate of École Hôtelière de Lausanne, and certified Court of Master Sommeliers, Suryaveer singh, takes us through the incredible history of wine.
Benjamin Franklin once said “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy”. The world of wine has a dark and mysterious past filled with ups and downs which run parallel to our very own existence as humans.
In the mid-1970s a group of Archaeologists, working in the ancient site of ‘Khramis- didi- Gora’ in present day Georgia, stumbled across an artifact which would augment our understanding of the drink we know as wine. The artifact was an 8,000 year old Neolithic jar with fine engravings of grapes on it, used as a vessel in which to crush wine grapes and brew the delicate liquid which represented the terroir and love of the land.
Such is the history of wine that it is intertwined with humanity’s history- wherever a civilization was set to thrive and flourish, the evidence of wine being grown is present. From the very moment the Ancient Chinese in 6000 BC discovered the art of fermenting crops into alcohol, humanity has twisted and turned alcohol recipes to suit palates for different ethnicities - be it beer or fortified rice wine. However, the terrain of modern-day Europe turned out to be ideal to grow wine through grapes and thus started the friendship of the Homo Sapien with wine.
‘Khramis- didi- Gora’ wine jug
Wine seemed to serve numerous purposes for man - it was a safer to consume beverage over water, it was relatively easy to grow and consume, it was a valuable barter item, it was an ideal beverage to enjoy with food, the drink could be stored for longer periods and all sections of societies enjoyed it. The appreciation of wine in society is made visible with engravings of how to make it in the Pyramids of Giza in 2580 BC: King Tut’s tomb had countless wine jars for him to take to the after-life. On 197 occasions, the Old Testament mentions wine and refers to the beverage as ‘the blood of Christ’. Caesar used to command his mighty Roman army to consume up to 3 litres of wine a day/per soldier. Even Leonardo da Vinci didn’t shy from placing Jesus’ hand reaching for a glass in his iconic ‘The Last Supper’.
Wine plays an integral part in mapping the history of Europe. Wine was introduced to the Mediterranean – present day Italy – by the Phoenicians in about 1550 BC, and the Roman Empire brought the crop from there to France. Throughout this time, the local population, through trial and error, figured out the most perfect and fertile plots of land to grow and perfect wine. One can examine the history of the renowned vineyards of Bordeaux in North Western France, which were historically under swamp water but drained by Dutch engineers in the 1600s’, as an example. The Dutch eventually farmed this land and turned it into a gravel and clay based soil – an ideal combination to grow award-winning wines. This new soil happened to bear fruit for the best wine making regions of Haut Medoc, and for wineries like Chateau Margaux and Chateau Lafite, which went on to be recognized by Napoleon and eventually the world as some of the greatest wines of our times.
Chateau Lafite Winery
The Romans perfected wine maturing in barrels along with the usage of hardened glass to protect the delicate liquid and showcase its most pure character. With wine thriving in Europe thanks to the Renaissance, the beverage was soon exported across the continent and throughout nations further afield through colonization. The discovery of the Americas, South Africa and Australia in the 1600s saw settlers bringing their favorite vines to new shores – George Washington being an avid wine grower himself. The New World, as it was referred to, had less rain and strong summers, which helped to ripen the fruit and bring about a more fruity flavored taste compared to the more mineral flavors in the European mainland.
The 17th century was a seminal year for grape wine, with a sparkling variety of the beverage being introduced through sheer chance by a Christian monk named Dom Perignon in the Northern French town of Champagne. The world-of-wine now had a beverage to mark celebratory occasions. In 1703, tensions between the French and the British led to the development of Portugal growing wine of their own to feed the demand of Anglophiles. Portugal and Spain’s wine culture was disrupted under the rule of Islamic conquerors from 792AD to 1492AD.
Greek youth using an 'oinochoe' or wine jug. 490-480BC
The history of wine, however, does have a dark side. The beverage almost met its demise in the period from 1860 to 1890 due to an insect named Phylloxera which would chew the vines and ruin the fruit. Wine production from all countries dropped to a quarter in this period and with the growing popularity of alcoholic spirits, the wine market neared collapse. The industry finally figured out how to evolve their vines to withstand the bug and started to focus on the more common grape varieties of today- Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
The 20th century gave the industry a new challenge: with growth of the global population from 1.6 Billion in 1900 to 6.1 Billion in 1999, wine growers had to increase supply and adopt technology to rid themselves of archaic methods in order to improve their yield and quality. Two world wars caused a drop in production: the vineyards of Champagne were scenes of battle trenches, and cellars were looted. The state of Alsace in France, bordering Germany, exchanged occupation between the two warring countries, which resulted in the region producing German Rieslings with French finesse still to this day. The United States’ wine industry faced a devastating blow in the 1920s thanks to prohibition, which saw century-old vines uprooted and discarded. The industry lay dormant and discouraged until the 1960s. In 1966 an American called Robert Mondavi invested large sums of money to kick-start his very own winery in Napa, California. Mondavi’s winery encouraged others to follow suit and thus the golden age of New World wines began, with Californian wines often defeating their French superiors in blind tasting competitions. The New World, which comprised of non-European nations, adopted new techniques and methods such as temperature-controlled vats to ensure wine quality and screw caps to appeal to a new market. Today the New World produces more wine than any other single country.
In 2019, the $423 Billion a year industry is at an exciting stage with strong demand from cash-rich China, overtaking the markets of Britain and France. With technology, wine growers are aiming to grow the grape in regions where, previously, none would have been deemed possible thanks to their long summers – India, China and Indonesia. Whatever we may see in the future, with global warming and the advent of artificial intelligence – wine will continue to remain man’s true companion, to sit beside him as one enjoys the fruits of life.
Executive Director of Trance Hotels
News from Patrick (@historychappy), Elliott (@thelibrarian6) & Conal (@prohistoricman)