'Saunders movingly presents the poppy in its beauty, its tragedy and its healing power as a potent symbol every year in our national and global remembrance of loss' – Saga
A pioneering 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 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.