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The Flower of Empire

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The Flower of Empire
An Amazonian Water Lily, the Quest to Make it Bloom, and the World it Created
By Tatiana Holway
Oxford University Press, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-1953-7389-9

A History in Review Book of the Week Selection

Reviewed by Anna Dogole - May 20, 2013

Tatiana Holway, a Victorian scholar, has written a fascinating history of the massive Amazonian Water Lily, known as Victoria regia. In this narrative she chronicles its discovery in 1837 by Robert Schomburgk, and how and why it had such a major impact on the Victorian era. She describes how, in the Age of Flowers (which coincided with the Age of Steam and Rail), flowers were an essential element of the Victorian psyche, influencing Victorian, art, culture, and more.

The Flower of Empire serves not only as a social history of Victorian society, and England in particular, but also as a history of the 'Age of Flowers.' A time when flower mania influenced fashions, inflamed men to great passions as they traded, stole, and even killed to posses a particular flower, or blulb, or seed. Filled with vivid descriptions of the lily, its role in Victiorian socity, and the key figures associated with its discovery and culitvation, including the Duke of Devonshire, Sir Joseph Banks, Sir William Jackson Hooker, and many more..., this book will enthrall general readers and academics alike.

A fascinating book, The Flower of Empire is essential reading for anyone with an interest in the Victorian era, botanical history, or social history in general. While perfect for pleasure reading, this book will serve as a university-level supplemental text in courses ranging from English social history and Victorian society to South American exploration and even botany classes.


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