- Hardcover: 496 pages
- Publisher: Walker And Company; 1st edition (2002)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0676972683
- ISBN-13: 978-0676972689
- Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.8 x 1.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (571 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,878,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Salt - A World History Hardcover – 2002
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Top Customer Reviews
Because our need for salt is so fundamental, its history encompasses that of humanity. Salt was basic to many economies, Kurlansky notes. It's acted as the basis of exchange between traders, was the target of empire builders and even paid out to soldiers as a form of "salary" - hence the term. Venice, a coastal city tucked away from the main tracks of Mediterranean trade, bloomed into prominence when it discovered it could garner more profit by trading in salt than by manufacturing it. The Venetian empire and later renaissance was founded on the salt trade.
Empires may be built on salt, but can be felled by misguided policies on its trade and consumption. One element leading to the downfall of the French monarchy was the hated "gabelle", or salt tax, which imposed a heavier burden on farming peasants than it did on the aristocracy.Read more ›
I like these small, focused histories (as you've probably guessed if you've read any of the other reviews I've written). I've read many of them, including another one by Mark Kurlansky, Cod (which I rather enjoyed). So when I ran across Salt, I was certain I wanted to read it. I liked Kurlansky's style, and I already knew that the subject matter would be interesting.
And it was. In Salt, Kurlansky walks through both the history of salt and the influence of salt on history, presenting a wide and varied picture of one of the [now] most common elements in our modern world. And he does this in the same engaging fashion that he used in Cod; although, with fewer recipes. So why not give it five stars? Well, it has a couple of noticable flaws that tended to detract a bit from the overall presentation.
The first flaw was in the sheer number of historical snippets that were included. While I'm certain that salt has been important in the broad span of human history, there are a number of these historical anecdotes where he was clearly reaching to demonstrate the influence of salt. Salt may have been involved in these incidents, but it was peripheral at best, and the overall tone sounds too much like cheerleading. Cutting a few of these out would have shortened the book without detracting from the presentation at all.
The second flaw was the meandering path that he takes through the history of salt.Read more ›
Certainly my knowledge of historical trivia is now seasoned with tidbits such as: the Anglo-Saxon word for saltworks being 'wich' means that places such as Norwich, Greenwich, etc, in England were once ancient salt mines; Ghandi's independence movement in India began with his defying the British salt laws, and the French levied taxes on salt until as recently as 1946.
A common theme in Kurlansky's books is that food is seen as a topic of historical interest. Here we learn about the role salt played in preserving cod, whale, ham, herring, caviar, pastrami, salami and sausage, and as it was with COD and THE BASQUE HISTORY OF THE WORLD this book is sprinkled throughout with recipes.
Salt is certainly an interesting subject; cultural history buffs will love this book and Kurlansky still has a humorous, easy, and very readable writing style; it's just that he probably could have salted away some of the facts without us missing much and he should have developed a flowing theme rather than one that was so saltatory.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting to see how the whole world has revolved around salt. Could it be so?Published 3 days ago by David Drew Bassuk
Very informative, but it sure would be good if Kurlansky believed in footnotes. It's hard to trust his research.Published 14 days ago by Barbara Ardinger
Plenty of interesting tidbits, but halfway through the book I was sick of reading ancient recipes for salted fish, salted fish sauce, or ketchup. Read morePublished 16 days ago by kyle karthauser
This is a great book. Many of us today have no idea of the history of salt. Fascinating and full of interesting stories.Published 19 days ago by TheWinemaker99336
brilliant, full of surprises. I ended up buying several copies for friends. Sounds like a boring subject but couldn't be further from the truth!Published 1 month ago by James P Rielly