Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Book Review: The Devil's Milk: A Social History of Rubber by John Tully
Rubber, much like plastic, is ubiquitous, and most people go through life not realizing just how dependent their everyday lives are on it-- or the social, environmental, and human costs that have been (and continue to be) associated with its production.
Tully begins with an easy-to-understand description of rubber's physical and chemical properties, an brief overview of a few types of rubber production, and a quick but exhaustive list of things that the modern world wouldn't have if humans hadn't figured out how to harvest and process it. From there, he launches into a history of rubber that takes the reader from plantations in South America and Southeast Asia to the fledgling union movement in the American Midwest to World War II in Europe-- and beyond.
All told, this book is not only very interesting and enlightening, it is cogent, entertaining, and easy for a layperson to understand. Tully does an excellent job juggling narratives in multiple times and places, weaving them into a cohesive whole. A must-read for anyone who enjoys social histories, is interested in industrialization/globalization and their discontents, or simply wants to learn more about where rubber comes from. 5 out of 5 stars.