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Hemp History

Hemp History
Read about the rich history of hemp and hemp products:

1150: Moors use cannabis to start Europe's first paper mill

The Moorish conquest of Spain brought papermaking into Europe. Using hemp and linen rags as a source of fiber, the first recorded paper mill in the Iberian Peninsula started operating in Xàtiva in 1151.[2]

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1200 - 1300: Anglo-French speak of 'canevaz' which means made of cannabis

The word 'canvas' is derived from the 13th century Anglo-French 'canevaz' and the Old-French 'canevas'. Both may be derivatives of the Vulgar Latin 'cannapaceus' (originating from the Greek 'Κάνναβις') meaning: "made of cannabis”.[1]

Canvas is a heavy, closely woven fabric used for making sails, tents, covers, awnings and other functions where sturdiness is required.


1.Etymology Dictionary.
Research and text © Hempshopper Amsterdam.

1300: The city of Callosa de Segura in Spain is the largest producer of hemp-made goods.

The medieval city of Callosa de Segura in the south of Valencia, in Spain was the world's largest producer of hemp wire, ropes and nets.

The city's history with hemp started during the middle ages after the king of Aragon drove the Moors out of Valencia during the reconquesta. The economy of the city was based on industry and agriculture. The most prominent industry was the manufacture of wire, rope and nets made from hemp. This made Callosa de Segura a powerful industrial center. Callosa de Segura has among its official titles "City of Hemp" [1].


1.Museo Del Canamo Callosa de Segura.
Research and text © Hempshopper Amsterdam.

1484: Pope Innocent VIII labels cannabis as an unholy sacrament

Pope Innocent VIII (1432 – 25 July 1492), born Giovanni Battista Cybo (or Cibo), was Pope from 1484 until his death. At the beginning of his career as a pope on 5 December 1484 he issued a papal bull called "Summis desiderantes" (English: Desiring with supreme ardor)[1].

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1563: Queen Elizabeth orders landowners with 60 acres or more to grow cannabis or face a £5 fine

In 1533, King Henry VIII decreed that all landholders set aside one-quarter acre for the cultivation of  hemp for every sixty acres of land that they tilled, in order to provide the necessary fibre required by the nation. This was to satisfy the increased demand for rope and sailcloth for  King Henry's VIII new navy.

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1564: King Phillip II orders hemp to be grown throughout the Spanish Empire

In 1492 Columbus 'discovered' America and claimed it for his patrons King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. With the discovery of the New World, the age of sail comes into full force for the Spanish Empire.  Hemp is one of the most heavily used materials in the  building of seafaring vessels, second only to wood. The young super power needed huge supplies of hemp to build the navy and merchant ships that secured the newly found wealth and power.

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1592: Venician botanist decribes hashish intoxication in Egypt

Prospero Alpini (November 23, 1553 - February 6, 1617), was a Venetian botanist and physician, who travelled to Egypt in the 16th Century in order to learn about exotic plants. In his medical work, De medicina Aegyptorium, Alpini describes the intoxicating effects of hashish: 
"For an hour afterwards, those who have taken it, display there madness, and remain for a long time in a state of ecstasy, revel in their delightful dreams. This drug is a favorite for the common people because it is bought at a reasonable price."
Also in this work, Alpini makes himself the first European to mention coffee in writing, as well as introducing the west to the banana and the baobab tree.

1600 -1700: The Golden Age of Dutch hemp

Holland’s Golden Age was also the golden age of Dutch hemp. The Golden Age was the period roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. After the dutch liberated themselves from their Spanish authority, the country developed into an international superpower.

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1619: Implementation of the first cannabis law in the New World

Jamestown (or James Towne or Jamestowne) was a settlement in the Colony of Virginia. Established by the Virginia Company of London as "James Fort" on May 14, 1607 it was the first permanent English settlement in what is now the United States.

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1681: The first description of cannabis in English is presented to the Royal Society

Robert Hooke (1635–1703) was an English natural philosopher, architect and polymath who played an important role in the scientific revolution. He was a prominent member (Fellow) of the Royal Society in London.

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1700 - 1800: Russia becomes the largest producer of hemp

Czar Peter the Great on board of his yacht en route to the Pieter en Paul.At the end of the 17th century Czar Peter came to power in Russia, he was determined to modernise Russia, which was still an archaic, isolated backwater which had missed out on the European Renaissance.

The Dutch Republic was the leading European power, and Czar Peter tought of it as the perfect model for Russia. He made several trips to Western Europe to learn about culture and science.

In Amsterdam Czar Peter  worked at the Dutch East India Company shipyard and helped build a ship. There he learned the importance of hemp in the shipbuilding proces.  In 1698, the ship on which the tsar had worked, the Pieter en Paul was launched.[1] Next to shipbuilding the czar also learned about watch-making, making coffins, etchings, post-mortems, paper making and silk spinning.