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Tech Thursday: Hemp, the Basque Country and the Empire of Spain

Source: Dope Magazine

Today, there is not a great deal of hemp grown in Spain’s Basque Country – a few fields here and there, and some plans to increase acreage in coming years. But during the historic days of the Spanish Empire, the area produced a great deal of hemp. Let’s take a look at just how important the crop was back in those days, and why.

The Early Modern period of European history began after the Middle Ages and lasted up until the Industrial Revolution (around the beginning of the 15th to the end of the 18th centuries). During this time, European powers were fighting extensively among themselves over territory – both in Europe and overseas, in Africa and the “New World.”

Warfare during this period depended greatly on a kingdom’s ability to build and maintain a seafaring navy, particularly when it came to battling it out over territories thousands of miles from Europe. The great empires that began to develop during this time – the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch and British in particular – developed around the kingdoms that were most invested in maintaining powerful navies.

In order to maintain a navy, a kingdom needed sufficient material resources to run a shipbuilding industry. That meant a great deal of timber, and it also meant a great deal of hemp, which for many centuries was Europe’s most important source of fiber for rope and sailcloth.

The case of Spain, a land of divided kingdoms and territories for centuries, is an interesting one. What would become the Spanish Empire started out as a union between the two kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, facilitated by the marriage of Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1474. The monarchs of this new,…

Please click here to read this article: Tech Thursday: Basque Country Pt.1


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