A History of the World in Six Glasses Paperback – 14 Jun 2007
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"...original...gloriously multi-layered." -- Publishing News, 9th February 2007
"Standage manages to be incisive, illuminating and swift without
belabouring his analysis." -- Janet Maslin, Scotland on Sunday, 17th June 2007
"Standage tells his story with verve and there are suprises on almost every
page." -- Ian Pinder, The Guardian, 16th June 2007
"...his research is vast and his writing accessible and strewn
with fascinating facts... this is a delightful and informative book." -- Nina Caplan, Metrolife, 13th June 2007
"Whatever your poison, this fizzy cocktail of social and cultural
history is hard to resist." -- The Daily Mail, Friday 8th June 2007
About the Author
Tom Standage is business editor at The Economist and author of The Turk, The Neptune File and The Victorian Internet. He has also written for publications including the Guardian, Daily Telegraph, New York Times and Wired. He holds a degree in engineering and computer science from Oxford University and is the least musical member of a musical family. He is married and lives in London.
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Top Customer Reviews
Author Tom Standage begins by taking us back to the dawn of the agricultural age with beer in Mesopotamia and Egypt, and in pre-Columbian Europe. Beer was the drink of choice for just about everybody because there was little else to drink (no coffee, no tea, and only the occasional grape or fruit wine or mead made from honey). And beer was actually better for you than water because the alcohol in beer killed bacteria and other parasites. This is a theme that comes up again and again in the book: all these beverages were better than water because they were safer to drink than water. Beer was also a major source of calories for those who drank it. Interesting enough the Egyptians drank their beer with straws and in the Middle Ages in Europe almost everybody had beer and/or beer soup for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Of course most of the beer had about half the alcohol that is typically in beer today--probably about three percent versus today's six percent.
Next Standage returns us to the grandeur that was Greece and the glory that was Rome as we learn about wine. Both the Greeks and the Romans drank their wine mixed with water. That was the only civilized way. Only barbarians and other uncouth people drank wine straight. The Greeks sometimes flavored their wines with (gulp!) seawater. The Romans also adulterated their wines with all sorts of herbs, honey and even pitch (as a preservative). It's clear that their wines weren't all that good, nothing like the quality we have today, except perhaps for a few drunk only by emperors and others at the pinnacle of power.
Chapters 5 and 6 are about distilled liquor, especially rum and whiskey.Read more ›
Yet as I read the book, I found myself wanting more. Standage's overviews are rather cursory - perhaps excessively so - and he glosses over some information that does not fit into the structure he lays out for the reader (gin is conspicuously absent, for example, despite its importance in the 18th century). The result is to make the book an intellectual appetizer (albeit a tasty one) rather than a meal, and after having their appetites whetted some readers will find themselves resorting to the bibliography he provides at the end of the text to learn more. As an introduction, though, Standage's book is a good starting point as an enjoyable read full of interesting details.
The section on Coca-Cola outlines the health risks early opponents expounded but fails to mention current concerns regarding its high sugar content(the average American gets some 11 pounds of sugar per year from its products)with inherent risks of type 2 diabetes and tooth decay ,perhaps this is a factor in America's dismal life expectancy,51st in world rankings. Mexicans who consume 70% more have just been declared the most obese people on Earth.
The final section on water mentions the bottled tap waters Aquafina and Dasani (p.168) but omits to mention they are marketed by Pepsi and Coca-Cola.
The author was brave in the final section to record that Israel appropriates 82% of the occupied West Bank's water for its own use,one reason not to expect any movement on the two-state solution.
The book increases in interest as it comes closer to the present day - the chapters on coca-cola, with its origins as a patent medicine, are splendid. Did you know, for example, of Vin Mariani, a drink containing both alcohol and cocaine, which was endorsed by 'three popes, two American presidents, Queen Victoria and the inventor Thomas Edison'? Or that the United States government tried in 1911 to ban the sale of coca-cola (in the case of The United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca Cola)?
There are some reservations. First, Standage is not sufficiently clear on the extent to which the introduction of each of these drinks caused various social and historical developments, or merely accompanied them. In the introduction he writes:
'As a technology writer, I noticed that each drink's impact was akin to that of a new invention that spreads through society and acts as a catalyst for social and historical change'.
Talking about a 'catalyst' suggests that Standange thinks that these drinks caused various social changes. But elsewhere in the book he merely talks about the drinks 'accompanying' or 'mirroring' various developments. These are quite different. For example, while it is true that the introduction of coffee into England and the Netherlands in the 17th century accompanied the scientific and financial revolutions of that period, is it really plausible to imagine that it caused them?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
“A History of the World in Six Glasses” begins with a quote from Karl Popper that, “There is no history of mankind, there are only many histories of all kinds of aspects of human... Read morePublished 9 months ago by JohnCarr
love this book, had read it before and needed to read it again.Published 15 months ago by negin karbassian
I received "Maniac Magee" instead if ths book. It had the correct label, but wrong book. Imagine a 20-something reading "Maniac Magee". Read morePublished 18 months ago by Kallie Hansen
I liked the book for it is witty and well written, rich in interesting anecdotes, and absolutely worthwhile to discuss with an Irish friend.Published on 29 Jun. 2013 by Giulio Tartaglia
Exellent interesting and readable account of the part played by beverages in the history of the world from pre-history to the modern day.Published on 8 Jan. 2013 by Amazon Customer
This is a clever idea, beautifully executed.
I listened to the audiobook version, and immediately ordered several paper copies as Christmas presents for friends. Read more
Tom Standage has come up with an engaging and convincing way of making sense of human history - through what we drank in different periods. Read morePublished on 11 Sept. 2011 by R Bain
Another great take on how something has changed the history of the world,in this case drinks. An excellently researched history of the origins of six of the most important created... Read morePublished on 30 July 2009 by Charles Lowe
This book is one of the greatest history lessons I have ever had. It effortlessly guides the reader through the dawn of civilisation up to the modern day with an interesting take... Read morePublished on 19 July 2008 by N. Doyle