- Paperback: 340 pages
- Publisher: Nation Books (1 April 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1560258918
- ISBN-13: 978-1560258919
- Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 13.3 x 21 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 409,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Rum: A Social and Sociable History Paperback – 1 Apr 2008
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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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So I'd suggest that, if you really know this topic and want some new facts (though you'd want to double check them), this is a good source, especially of lengthy quotes from a handful of early rum and Caribbean historians. However, if you only care enough to read one book, I'd definitely recommend William Curtis's "And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in 10 Cocktails" over this book -- it's more accurate and it's a much more entertaining read.
That said, the information Williams presents is interesting, in its context. The author's focus is clearly early American history, which is not unreasonable, given that rum's very origin was in the New World, the Americas. However, the reader is occasionally left with the feeling that there may be a broader context he is missing out on. Of course, the title of the book does limit the focus, but limiting the focus of a book which is already very narrow in scope (rum, as a topic, is not especially broad compared to, say, trade in general, or even alcohol in general) doesn't help matters. Williams occasionally seems to be a little bit too eager to prove his points, sometimes grasping at straws; however, in a book about a subject often lacking in documentary evidence, some conjecture is not out of place.
Williams cites most of the same sources most other histories of rum use, mainly because there aren't many solid primary sources out there. He then proceeds into less murky areas, to the American Revolution and rum's role therein (which he exaggerates from time to time). The very end of the book contains a few short chapters about rum in different locales, and he closes with a brief chapter regarding the US Prohibition era. There is also a section of black-and-white pictures, including vintage advertisements.
All in all, Ian Williams' Rum is quite readable, and worth having in your collection, if you do indeed have a collection of this sort of book. If my review has sounded somewhat tepid, it's only because I have since read other treatments of the subject that I find better; another good addition to your liquor library would be Wayne Curtis' And a Bottle of Rum. But if you'd like a light read, and you're in no danger of taking everything you read at face value, A Social and Sociable History is worth picking up. I'd give it 3.5 stars, but Amazon won't allow it.
The piece on Bacardi towards the end of the book will make it stunningly obvious why Bacardi bought Grey Goose.
There is a surprisingly large amount of information to be had here, and it is presented by the author in a tongue-in-cheek, bantering style which makes it easy to remember and to connect with many other points of reference. You'll learn all about `kill devil', `scuttlebutt', `Nelson's blood', and then be overcome with the urge to wash down the lesson with a shot of `Barbadoes waters' as you contemplate the grog ration, and how Britannia actually came to rule the waves.
Like coffee, chocolate, tea, opium, sugar, methamphetamines and tobacco, rum is a product for which there is great demand -a craving no less- and that demand creates all sorts of consequences-it becomes a great driver of human events, for both good and ill. The by-product of Jamaican sugar refining is molasses, which is distilled in New England to make rum, which is shipped to West Africa as a trade good in exchange for slaves, who are taken to Jamaica to cultivate sugar cane...
If you want to learn more about subjects as diverse as the drinking habits of our Founding Fathers and why they were indebted to medieval Arabian alchemists, or the triple scourges of `Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion' (to say nothing of `Rum, Buggery and The Lash'),or the pirates of the Caribbean, or the one and only quality export coming out of Haiti these days, or what those fifteen men were up to, you really should pick this book up today.
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