The Necessary and the Unnecessary

Frank Davis

I rather had the feeling with yesterday’s post that history had come to life a bit. I suddenly understood, or felt that I understood, what had been happening in 1630, nearly 400 years ago.

And it was that the newly arrived English colonists in Jamestown had learned the custom of smoking tobacco from the native American Indians (as had the Spanish before them in the Caribbean). And they had exported the custom back to England, where it had caught on like wildfire with the English middle classes (who were engaged in trade, and who could afford to buy it even when it was still relatively expensive).

It seems that for the native Indians, tobacco was regarded as a medicine. And as a medicine it was probably used fairly infrequently. And when it arrived in Europe, it was as a medicine to be used only occasionally. And European physicians adopted it…

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