Best Of The Web
“Quinine (Scientific name: Cinchona) is a plant that has influenced the course of human history. Used for centuries by the indigenous people of the Andes as a cure for fevers, Cinchona became known to Jesuits stationed in Peru in the early seventeenth century. The “Jesuit powder” was subsequently introduced to Europe as a medicine against malaria and remained the only effective treatment well into the twentieth century.
Due to its medicinal properties, Cinchona was a key focus of many Spanish botanical expeditions to South America, including those by Hipólito Ruiz López and José Antonio Pavón, and by José Celestino Mutis. Indeed, so desirable was quinine to the botany of empire that the Spanish forbade the export of Cinchona bark from their territories in 1778 upon pain of death. Yet a reliable supply of quinine remained of great economic and military significance to the British and the Dutch, who succeeded in obtaining seeds and seedlings from South America by stealth.
Britain prospected Peruvian bark trees and grew them in India, having first transplanted them to Kew, one of many botanical gardens that served as a center for medical and colonial botany. In fact, the success of British rule in India depended partly on the control of malaria through the establishment of local Cinchona plantations. In Jules Verne’s 1874 fantasy novel The Mysterious Island, the sulfate of quinine that miraculously saves the life of one of the main characters turns out to be a gift from the reclusive Captain Nemo. Yet far from being a pure gift, Cinchona, like so many other botanical discoveries, was both a cure for suffering and an instrument of power.
While the story of Cinchona is well known, having been studied by historians of botany, empire, science, medicine and art (including Lucile Brockway, J.R. McNeill and Londa Schiebinger), the stories and travels of many other plants remain to be told. To fill that gap, Dumbarton Oaks and JSTOR are combining their scholarly and digital expertise to launch the Plant Humanities Initiative, an endeavor generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Our joint aim is to advance plant humanities, the interdisciplinary field that explores and communicates the unparalleled significance of plants to human culture.”
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"Political leaders from all French parties, including former presidents Francois Hollande and Nicolas Sarkozy, joined Jews and non-Jews in Paris’s Place de la Republique to condemn antisemitic acts."
"Eighty years ago tonight, thousands of Americans gathered in New York to rally behind the Nazi Party and its ideals. An Oscar-nominated short documentary retrieves footage of the event, but leaves out the context that gives it meaning."
"The PM has persuaded the religious-Zionist Jewish Home to partner with the Kahanists of Otzma Yehudit. It makes cynical political sense for his interests, but what of Israel’s?"
"IFC’s series Documentary Now! began as an affectionately parodic tribute to the classics of nonfiction cinema. Its first episode, “Sandy Passage,” was a note-perfect evocation of the Maysles brothers’ Grey Gardens..."
"Making our choices count is, however, far from straightforward, and this is the subject of Martin Hägglund’s book This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom."
"Teens in the United States are coming of age at a time when digital technology is truly ubiquitous, where smartphones are all of our “constant companions.”"
"...the Smollett story, if the “trajectory” leads to evidence of fakery, would actually reveal something else modern America is about: victimhood chic."
"Cool in the humanities isn’t that different from cool in other areas of cultural life, like planking, hotdog-legs photography, mason jar rehabilitation, and novels whose main character is a city."
"It’s true that high-octane, hardworking child-rearing has some pointless excesses, and it doesn’t spark joy for parents. But done right, it works for kids..."
"Cape Town in South Africa is a foodie destination. Some people in its renowned restaurant industry are trying to spread the food wealth citywide."
"...for many “space expansionists,” escaping Earth is about much more than dodging the bullet of extinction: it’s about realizing astronomical amounts of value by exploiting the universe’s vast resources to create something resembling utopia. "
"After facing persecution in the former Soviet Union and a new wave of antisemitism in the United States, Marya Zilberberg decides to put her Jewishness on display."