World empires rise and fall, but the shadow left by Great Britain continues to etch political boundaries across a global landscape to this day. The former British Empire once practically defined civilization. It established and maintained naval bases that spanned the known world, many still in use today, and connected continents with military force and trade through brazen conquest and cutting-edge technology. Crucial to this imposing worldwide structure was one plant, held in such regard that no British Naval vessel left port without a storehouse of its seeds to proliferate on foreign lands. The crop was hemp.
“...Hemp was so valuable, in terms of its contribution to the naval and trading successfulness of a nation, that wars were fought over it and, in some cases, pre-emptive strikes were staged on enemies to keep them from obtaining it.”
Followers of our CBD Soda blog might remember our mentioning the adoration that many past United States presidents have expressed for hemp. In today's article we'll take a look at where their inspiration came from, and how the land that they were escaping was lush at the time with a flourishing hemp industry.
Although you might be familiar with hemp being used nowadays as a popular food additive (often found in CBD beverages and even gummy bears), it was actually mandatory for British Naval vessels to carry a large store of hemp seeds with them at all times.
“Hemp arrived in Colonial America with the Puritans in the form of seed for planting and as fiber in the lines, sails and caulking of the Mayflower. British sailing vessels were never without a store of hemp seed, and Britain’s colonies were compelled by law to grow hemp.”
This mandate may seem odd at first glance, but a cursory investigation shows just how useful the plant was for the navy. Hemp fiber was vital to the building and repair of naval ships for a number of reasons. Hemp is naturally resistant to rotting by way of its antimicrobial properties. This alone is of huge benefit to the integrity of sails and cordage (the massive ropes that hold ship sails in place) that are under constant stress from coarse salt water and exposure to the most severe of elements.
Hemp is also three times stronger than cotton, making it an obvious choice for avoiding undue maintenance as well as a resistance to the often mortal dangers of damage during a voyage at sea.
We've mentioned in previous articles how hemp was actually mandatory to grow in early colonial America, but as it turns out, this law had an earlier iteration mandated for British colonies. Hemp was considered so vital to Great Britain's national security that a decree was set forth in 1533 by King Louis VIII demanding that all farmers grow hemp (or flax, another rot-resistant plant popular for naval use as well as food), or be subject to gross fines. From the British Hemp Association:
“In 1533, King Henry VIII made hemp cultivation compulsory by law. For every 60 acres, farmers had to grow about 1/4 acre of flax or hemp, or else they would face a fine for breaking the law. They could even pay their taxes with Hemp.”
The Navy remained the nation's priority in hemp production, but a thriving demand for the fiber in world trade as well as local commerce perpetuated production of the plant at home and abroad. The fiber was used for sales and cordage but was also popular for cargo sacks and clothing as well. In fact, some estimates speculate that until the production of synthetic fibers in the 1920’s,
“...80% of clothing was made from Hemp textiles.”
Hemp wasn't only used for it's fibre, either. Paper was most commonly made from hemp pulp, and the seeds were popular as a food themselves. Oil squeezed from the seeds was used as an industrial lubricant as well as a lamp oil, and the 1930’s would discover literally thousands of other applications.
The Empire’s immense appetite for hemp led to an equally impressive industry across the homeland and abroad. Endland, Ireland, Scotland and Wales were all so inundated with the production of the plant that many of their cities and provinces are still named after the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon words for hemp to this day. Probably the best known example is Hampshire, supposed to be derived from old German “hamf”, Sweedish “hampa” or the Danish/Norwegian “hamp”.
Over time, the prominence of British trade overshadowed the benefits of domestic production and a dependency on foreign hemp began to concern the British aristocracy. This threat was so acute that it was deliberated over in Parliament and considered a concern of National Security. The fear, however, was not to last long. The country's dependence on hemp was soon diminished by the invention of a new powerhouse: the steam engine, and a need for related commodities soon eclipsed the concern for hemp.
The hemp extract and CBD beverage industries are booming at long last, and we couldn’t be happier to represent the rising movement. Our products all contain phytocannabinoid-rich, broad spectrum hemp extract and can be delivered right to your doorstep. All five flavors of our hemp CBD beverages are delicious and refreshing. Better yet, each sparkling CBD soda flavor is vegan, non-GMO, and free of gluten, sodium, and preservatives. PCR hemp extract is one of just five ingredients in every sparkling CBD soda can, and you’ll taste that sweet simplicity with every sip.