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NICHOLAS J. SAUNDERS is honorary reader in material culture in the Department of Anthropology at University College London. He is the world’s leading authority on the anthropology and archaeology of the First World War. His exhibition of trench art was the centrepiece of the ‘In Flanders Fields’ Museum in Ypres, Belgium. The author of more than twenty books and dozens of academic monographs (including ALEXANDER’S TOMB (BasicBooks, 2007)), he has appeared in numerous documentaries for the BBC and National Geographic.

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THE POPPY

A Cultural History from Ancient Egypt to Flanders Fields to Afghanastan

Praise for ALEXANDER’S TOMB

An armchair Indiana Jones... his lively prose draws readers into this compelling tale of conquest, political intrigue and the aura surrounding one of history’s great heroes – PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Our most renowned archaeologist of the First World War unravels the tangled history of the beloved, iconic flower.

 

In the aftermath of the horrific trench warfare of the First World War, the poppy – sprouting across the killing fields of France and Belgium, then immortalized in John McCrae’s moving poem – became a worldwide icon. Yet the poppy has a longer history, as the telltale sign of human cultivation of the land, of the ravages of war and of the desire to escape the earthly realm through inspired Romantic opium dreams or the grim reality of morphine drips. This is a story spanning three thousand years, from the ancient Egyptian fights over prized medicinal potions to the addicted veterans returning home from the American Civil War, from the British political machinations during the Opium Wars with China to the struggle to end Afghanistan’s tribal narcotics trade. Through it all, there stands the transformative poppy.

 

Nicholas J. Saunders brings us the definitive history of this ever-enduring but humble flower of the fields, a story that is at turns tragic, eye-opening and, most essentially, life-affirming – a gift to us all.


Publisher: Oneworld (UK)
Published: 17 October 2013
Length: 320 pages

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