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Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776

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Rum: A Social and Sociable History of the Real Spirit of 1776 [Paperback]

Ian Williams
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Nation's Williams (Deserter: Bush's War on Military Families) offers a spirited—if rambling—discussion of the history and spread of rum, from the field-side stills of 17th-century Barbados to the scientifically calibrated factories of modern multinationals like Bacardi. His main point? That the "role of rum and drink in both causing and effecting the American Revolution has been filtered out" of our history books. Williams details the mechanics of the pre-Revolutionary triangles of trade: African slaves for the Caribbean sugarcane plantations were purchased with rum distilled in New England from Caribbean molasses. He deftly describes how the American colonists evaded British taxation of rum-making supplies, and relishes the notion of our patriotic forefathers as a bunch of rum-sozzled smugglers. His other discussions—on the use of rum rations by various countries' navies, the production of rum in other parts of the world, the efficacy of Prohibition and his own rum-tasting forays—are less focused. Readers also may tire of Williams's tendency to overwork the liquor metaphor: "cultural alembic," "heady cocktail," "good spirits," "the equation in a small tot," etc. 10 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

A connoisseur of rum, a distillate of sugar cane, Williams (who writes for the Nation) cheerily discusses the liquor but keeps the reader in mind of its dark underside, which was slavery. Structuring matters chronologically, Williams selects anecdotes about rum as if to set up his own witty observations: he is out to entertain, not to bore. The Caribbean Sea's signature contribution to the world's bar, rum originated in Barbados as a by-product of sugar refining--molasses. Williams establishes how molasses became fixed in transatlantic trade in African slaves and, in the mercantile minds of the British, as a revenue source. Williams may oversimplify things by attributing the cause of the American Revolution to New England molasses smugglers, but his product-based interpretation of history will appeal to readers of similar books on cod, sugar, and salt. Tracing rum's run on the frontier, its run from the law in Prohibition, and its contemporary incarnation in popular brands, Williams concocts a stimulating saga. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Ian Williams is The Nation magazine's UN Correspondent and the author of DESERTER: George Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans and His Own Past. Since becoming interested in rum he has amassed a collection of "rumabilia;" books, pamphlets, prints, advertising ephemera, bottles and decanters, hundreds of rum labels from all over the world, and not least, a growing collection of rum, from Croatia to Thailand, from Kazakhstan to India, from Hawaii to Argentina. Williams lives in New York City.
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