Tony Robinson continues with his Time Travels in Eat, Drink and Be Merry. He explores the passion for eat and drink and how it altered the course of history. Where are the oldest grapevines? How did rum bring down a government? Why did the people riot against mutton? Who controlled fifty percent of the world’s trade at one time? Who really invented the Pavlova?
There was one drink above others that shaped civilization: Wine. The world’s oldest grapevines can be found in Australia and a vineyard in Australia. They were planted in 1843 and were planted by a German immigrant. A reclusive German immigrant had a mind for soil. He found an area in Australia where the soil had the potential to be fertile. He had a vision of vineyards and orchards. The people thought that he was joking, but he was serious. This area would eventually have a thriving wine industry.
However, it was another drink that brought down a government. It is 1808 and the Australia penal colony is getting off the ground. However, there is a problem: the ruling class felt increasingly vulnerable. The rulers had to rely on the army, however these were just ordinary blokes who wanted to take advantage of the situation. These soldiers cornered the market on Rum. Rum was considered a currency. Builders were paid in rum. Rewards for capturing criminals were given in Rum.
This payment in rum started when the Governor of Australia returned to England due to poor health. The officers took advantage of the power vacuum that was left and took over the government. The officers gave themselves land grants and enriched themselves. Eventually William Blythe was appointed governor and he was stickler for the rules. He would come face to face to John Macarthur a charismatic Australia who was heavily invested in the colony. Blythe was supposed to break up the rum cartel. John Macarthur and his rum cartel fought back, and Blythe was forced to resign.
The next Time Travel takes Tony to Adelaide, Australia and the Great Depression. The government provided the people with rations of food. In January 1931, the people rioted against the replacement of beef with mutton an inferior meat in the people’s eyes. It became known as the Beef Riots and as a result beef remained as part of the rations.
After this short Time Travel, Tony explores the history of the East India Trading Company. The 1500s were a period of exploration. The World was divided between Spain and Portugal. Only after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, that stranglehold on the world was broken. The East India Trading Company petitioned the king for permission to explore. The king granted this petition. Eventually the East India Trading Company controlled fifty percent of the world trade. This trading changed people’s taste. Britain was the first coffee drinking nation in the world. However, the East India Trading Company was not authorized to trade with coffee growing nations. Then they started to trade tea and they traded for tea with China. What did the East India Trading Company trade in order to get the tea? The answer may surprise you.
Tony’s last stop goes to the 1920’s New Zealand and a fight over desert. Anna Pavlova was on tour in New Zealand and Australia. Her dress inspired a desert, which would become known as the Pavlova. Who invented the Pavlova? Was it the Australians or the New Zealanders? Tune into this episode to find out what the Oxford dictionary has to say about the Pavlova.
This was an enjoyable episode about food and would be good to show in a food science class as well as a history class. For a history class, I would show the section on the East India Trading Company.
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