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By Any Other Name

A Cultural History of the Rose

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The rose is bursting with meaning: over the centuries it has come to represent love and sensuality, deceit, death and the mystical unknown.

Today the rose enjoys unrivalled popularity across the globe, ever present at life's seminal moments.

Grown in the Middle East two thousand years ago for its pleasing scent and medicinal properties, it has attached itself to us, its needy host and servant, to become one of the most adored flowers across cultures. The rose is well-versed at enchanting human hearts – no longer selected by nature, but by us. From Shakespeare's sonnets to Bulgaria's Rose Valley to the thriving rose trade in Africa and the Far East, via museums, high fashion, Victorian England and Belle Epoque France, we meet an astonishing array of species and hybrids of remarkably different provenance.

This is the story of a hardy, thorny flower and how, by beauty and charm, it came to seduce the world.