World Historical past is an extended and sophisticated subject. Although many achieved authors akin to Invoice Bryson and H. G. Wells have tried to condense historical past right into a single e book, only a few have succeeded. There may be simply an excessive amount of of it. Makes an attempt to boil down the final 10,000 years have resulted in both superficial books with little or no depth, or nice textbook like tombs too inaccessible for the informal reader.
Fortunately, A Historical past of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage succeeds the place others have failed. Standage’s e book does this by sacrificing the breadth of each doable subject for a formidable depth and focus. As an alternative of making an attempt to sum up the whole historical past of man, this e book spotlights a single subject, on this case drinks, after which takes the reader on a journey by way of time to see how his subject interweaves the previous. Standage is a pleasant author, mixing his gentle hearted model with distinctive historic savvy not simply on the subject of drinks, however all through.
Regardless of my now optimistic opinion of this e book, I’ve to admit that once I first picked up A Historical past of the World in 6 Glasses, I didn’t count on to get pleasure from it. Not solely am I skeptical of any e book claiming to sum up the antiquity of man in 300 pages or much less, however I personally don’t drink any of the 6 drinks this e book discusses. As such, studying the historical past of those drinks didn’t sound instantly interesting. Nonetheless, what I shortly realized is that this e book is not a historical past of 6 drinks, however relatively simply because the title states, a historical past of the world, instructed by way of the story of 6 drinks. Because the e book factors out within the introduction, second solely to air, liquid is probably the most very important substance to man’s survival. The provision of water and different consuming sources have “constrained and guided humankind’s progress” and “have continued to form human historical past”. All through time, drinks have finished greater than quenched our thirst; they’ve been used as currencies, medicines, and in non secular rites. They’ve served as symbols of wealth and energy, in addition to instruments to appease the poor and downtrodden.
A Historical past of the World in 6 Glasses is damaged down into six sections, one for every drink, the primary of which is beer. Man’s first civilizations the place based on surplus cereal manufacturing, a lot of which was brewed. Historical day beers had been excessive in vitamin B, a vitamin beforehand solely obtained by way of meat. This allowed the inhabitants to focus their diet efforts an increasing number of on cereals, successfully ushering within the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers. Moreover, as a result of early beers had been boiled (to transform extra starch into sugars), the beer was considerably safer to drink than water. This important enchancment in way of life “freed a small fraction of the inhabitants from the necessity to work within the fields, and made doable the emergence of specialist priest, directors, scribes, and craftsmen.” Not solely did beer nourish man’s first civilizations, however in some ways, made them totally doable.
Wine, the following beverage within the e book, performed a serious function within the flourishing Greek and Roman cultures. As wine didn’t originate from the Mediterranean, the Greek’s need for this drink opened up huge seaborne commerce, which unfold their philosophy, politics, science and literature far and large, and nonetheless underpins trendy Western thought. A Historical past of the World in 6 Glasses factors out how these developments originated and grew at formal Greek consuming events, known as symposia. The Romans, who absorbed a lot of Greek tradition, continued the robust use of wine. Because the e book notes, in the event you hint the wine consuming areas of the world on a map, you can find you may have traced the Roman empire at its top.
After a thousand years of hibernation, Western civilization was woke up by the rediscovery of historical data, lengthy safeguarded within the Arab world. Nonetheless, in an try to bypass this Arab monopoly, European monarchs launched huge fleets into the ocean. This age of exploration was significantly enhanced by the Arab data of distillation, which made an entire new vary of drinks doable. A Historical past of the World in 6 Glasses describes how these condensed types of alcohol (specifically Brandy, Whiskey and Rum) had been so fashionable, particularly within the new American colonies, that “they performed a key function within the institution of the US.”
The fourth beverage offered on this e book is espresso. Due to its sharpening impact on the thoughts, espresso shortly turned the drink of mind and business. Changing taverns as the delicate assembly place, the coffeehouse “led to the institution of scientific societies and monetary establishments, the founding of newspapers, and supplied fertile floor for revolutionary thought, significantly in France.” A Historical past of the World in 6 Glasses goes on to recount the intricate impact coffeehouses had on Victorian tradition, going as far as to dedicate a whole chapter to what the e book calls “The Coffeehouse Web”.
Though the inception of tea date again many 1000’s of years, it did not take maintain upon western tradition till the mid-seventeenth century. As soon as established as England’s nationwide drink, the importing of tea from first China after which India led to commerce and industrialization on an unprecedented scale. A Historical past of the World in 6 Glasses describes the immense energy of the British East India Firm, which “generated extra income than the British authorities and dominated over much more individuals”, wielding extra energy than another company in historical past. This imbalance of energy had an infinite, far-reaching impact on British overseas coverage, and in the end contributed to the independence of the US.
Like many of the drinks mentioned in A Historical past of the World in 6 Glasses, Coca-Cola was initially devised as a medical drink. Greater than another product, Coca-Cola has stood because the image of America’s “vibrant client capitalism”. Moderately than shrink on the problem, Coca-Cola took full benefit of the difficult instances it discovered itself in, gaining floor by way of the despair, after which touring alongside our troopers into WWII, changing into a world phenomenon. In keeping with the e book, Coca-Cola nonetheless accounts for “round 30 % of all liquid consumption” in the present day.
A Historical past of the World in 6 Glasses makes it clear that the historical past of mankind is a historical past of our consumption. Whether or not we’re consuming “liquid bread” in Mesopotamia, pondering revolution in a Coffeehouse in Paris, or throwing tea leafs into the ocean in Boston, these drinks have had a profound influence on who we’re. As Standage says within the introduction to his e book “They survive in our properties in the present day as dwelling reminders of bygone eras, fluid testaments to the forces that formed the fashionable world. Uncover their origins, and chances are you’ll by no means have a look at your favourite drink in fairly the identical means once more.” I extremely advocate this e book to anybody thirsty for data in regards to the world round them… or even when they’re simply thirsty for an excellent drink.