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A History Of The World In Six Glasses Hardcover – May 19, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 536 customer reviews

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100 Books for a Lifetime of Eating & Drinking
100 Books for a Lifetime of Eating & Drinking
 If you want to make an authentic tagine, bake mouth-watering cakes, or vicariously experience the life of a chef, you’ll find the book for it on this list.
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Standage starts with a bold hypothesis—that each epoch, from the Stone Age to the present, has had its signature beverage—and takes readers on an extraordinary trip through world history. The Economist's technology editor has the ability to connect the smallest detail to the big picture and a knack for summarizing vast concepts in a few sentences. He explains how, when humans shifted from hunting and gathering to farming, they saved surplus grain, which sometimes fermented into beer. The Greeks took grapes and made wine, later borrowed by the Romans and the Christians. Arabic scientists experimented with distillation and produced spirits, the ideal drink for long voyages of exploration. Coffee also spread quickly from Arabia to Europe, becoming the "intellectual counterpoint to the geographical expansion of the Age of Exploration." European coffee-houses, which functioned as "the Internet of the Age of Reason," facilitated scientific, financial and industrial cross-fertilization. In the British industrial revolution that followed, tea "was the lubricant that kept the factories running smoothly." Finally, the rise of American capitalism is mirrored in the history of Coca-Cola, which started as a more or less handmade medicinal drink but morphed into a mass-produced global commodity over the course of the 20th century. In and around these grand ideas, Standage tucks some wonderful tidbits—on the antibacterial qualities of tea, Mecca's coffee trials in 1511, Visigoth penalties for destroying vineyards—ending with a delightful appendix suggesting ways readers can sample ancient beverages. 24 b&w illus.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Historian Standage explores the significant role that six beverages have played in the world's history. Few realize the prominence of beer in ancient Egypt, but it was crucial to both cultural and religious life throughout the Fertile Crescent, appearing even in the Gilgamesh epic. Wine's history has been recounted in many places, and its use to avoid often--polluted water supplies made it ubiquitous wherever grapes could be easily cultivated. Spirits, first manufactured by Arabs and later rejected by them with the rise of Islam, played a fundamental role in the ascendance of the British navy. As a stimulant, coffee found no hostility within Islam's tenets, and its use spread as the faith moved out of Arabia into Asia and Europe. Tea enjoyed similar status, and it bound China and India to the West. Cola drinks, a modern American phenomenon, relied on American mass-marketing skills to achieve dominance. An appendix gives some modern sources for some of the primitive beers and wines described in the text. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 311 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1st edition (June 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802714471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802714473
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (536 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #211,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John D. Cofield TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a good example of why history is fun. Tom Standage has investigated the origins of six beverages: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola and has found innumerable connections, interconnections, and insights into not only the histories of the drinks themselves but also their impacts on the larger human story. The links Standage finds, for example between coffee and the Enlightenment or tea and the Opium Wars or wine and beer and their effect on class and cultural tensions in Greece and Rome, just a few of the many insights you'll find in the book) are fascinating. Standage also provides one of the most succinct but thorough dissections of the globalization debate I have ever seen in his coverage of "Coca-Colonization."

A History of the World in Six Glasses is much more than just a history of six beverages. It is history as it should be written (and taught).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Do you ever wonder where some people find the most interesting things to say at parties -- like how tea aided longevity in China or raised life expectancy in Europe ?

Well it is this kind of book that drives that knowledge. Standage has created a very enjoyable, brisk read that is definately for fun and to load up on fun facts.

By telling the world's history in six glasses (see below) Standage covers alot of ground and sure he misses alot, but its still fun non-the less.

1) Beer -- a basis for why people replaced hunting with farming

2) Wine -- the civilizer of Greece and Rome

3) Hard Spirits -- slavery, the American Revolution

4) Tea -- the life sustainer and improver

5) Coffee -- the fuel for the enlightenment

6) Cola -- particularly Coca-cola the expression of cultural dominance.

Sure you have heard some of these stories before, but this book presents history in a fun and entertaining light. So when you go to order your next beer know that you are engaging in high civilization even in a sports bar.
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Format: Hardcover
Breathing is essential, but the air is free and no one has found a way to make it special enough that people will pay for the privilege, unless you count the hits of pure oxygen that some favor. Eating is essential, and of course there are countless ways that the activity has been turned into a trade. Between them, as far as the body's needs go, is drinking, that is, drinking water, and while there is a pretty good trade in more-or-less pure water, it's the stuff that is added to water that has changed history. Or, at least, that is the view of Tom Standage in the sprightly _A History of the World in 6 Glasses_ (Walker & Company). An overview of world history that is based on what people imbibe might seem to be a theme too narrow to tell us much, but this enjoyably breezy overview looks into science and culture through the millennia and shows that humans took a physiologic necessity and used it to shape the ancient, classical, and modern worlds.

Beer, for instance, gave us history itself. The workers who built the pyramids were paid in beer, and Egyptians would greet each other with the phrase "Bread and beer," a genial wish for prosperity. The pictures of Egyptians enjoying their beer show them doing it together, using straws communally inserted into a big jar of beer; using straws kept the floating stuff at the top from being ingested. Wine, by contrast, was the drink of the elite ever since it spread through ancient Greece. It is remarkable that thousands of years later, though the categories have merged somewhat, beer has remained the working man's everyday drink while wine has remained an exotic, fit for connoisseurship and social differentiation. Rum was "The world's first global drink" and a key part of the slave trade as well as of the American drive to independence.
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Format: Hardcover
An entertaining and easily-read book that casually traces the impact of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coke on human history. There are a few new tidbits of information and interesting factoids, but nothing particularly earth-shattering here. If you're looking for intriguing details on the order of "Salt: A world history" or "Potato: How the humble spud changed the world" you'll be disappointed. That said, this is a good starting point for anyone interested in learning how consumables can impact history. An Amazon reviewer referred to one of the author's other books as a 'McBook' which is probably equally accurate here. But there's certainly room in the world for the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries. It may not be tremendously nutritious or flavourful, but it's tasty enough.
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Format: Hardcover
What can you say except, "I'll drink to that."

As I first started looking at this book I was reminded of James Burke and his 'Connections.' Like Burke, Mr. Standage looks at the six (well maybe seven) drinks that basically were a technology that changed history.

To illustrate this I'll talk about only one of his drinks -- Beer. Beer probably began as some leftover cooked grain, perhaps the kids morning cereal, was left outside in the rain. Soaking in water, it turned into malt. Wild yeast fell into the mix, and in a few days the result was beer. While I'd bet it was foul tasting beer, it was the only alcoholic beverage around.

OK, so you have beer, how does this mean anything? Well, to get more beer, you need more grain. To get more grain you basically move from being a hunter-gatherer to a farmer. You also need the ancillary technologies of pottery to make and store the product. If you have beer, and your neighbors have food, perhaps you can make a trade. Expand on this and you have a need for writing, for record keeping, for accounting. And with accounting can the tax people be far behind? And that's not all. No pathogen lives through the brewing process, so all of a sudden you have a beverage that's safe to drink, cutting down on illnesses. Think about all that the next time you sip a brew.

Surprisingly, a lot of the glasses Mr. Standage talks about have this same factor of sterilizing the water, thereby cutting down on disease.

A delightful book, now if we can only get it made into a TV series.
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