A History of the World in 6 Glasses

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

by Tom Standage


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New York Times Bestseller

From beer to Coca-Cola, the six drinks that have helped shape human history.

Throughout human history, certain drinks have done much more than just quench thirst. As Tom Standage relates with authority and charm, six of them have had a surprisingly pervasive influence on the course of history, becoming the defining drink during a pivotal historical period.

A History of the World in 6 Glasses tells the story of humanity from the Stone Age to the 21st century through the lens of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. Beer was first made in the Fertile Crescent and by 3000 B.C.E. was so important to Mesopotamia and Egypt that it was used to pay wages. In ancient Greece wine became the main export of her vast seaborne trade, helping spread Greek culture abroad. Spirits such as brandy and rum fueled the Age of Exploration, fortifying seamen on long voyages and oiling the pernicious slave trade. Although coffee originated in the Arab world, it stoked revolutionary thought in Europe during the Age of Reason, when coffeehouses became centers of intellectual exchange. And hundreds of years after the Chinese began drinking tea, it became especially popular in Britain, with far-reaching effects on British foreign policy. Finally, though carbonated drinks were invented in 18th-century Europe they became a 20th-century phenomenon, and Coca-Cola in particular is the leading symbol of globalization.

For Tom Standage, each drink is a kind of technology, a catalyst for advancing culture by which he demonstrates the intricate interplay of different civilizations. You may never look at your favorite drink the same way again.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802715524
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 05/16/2006
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 5,737
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Tom Standage is technology editor at The Economist magazine and the author of four history books, "A History of the World in Six Glasses" (2005), "The Turk" (2002), "The Neptune File" (2000) and "The Victorian Internet" (1998). 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 Greenwich, London, with his wife and daughter.

Read an Excerpt

The History of the World in 6 Glasses

By Tom Standage

Walker & Company

Copyright © 2005 Tom Standage
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8027-1447-1

Chapter One

Fermentation and civilization are inseparable. -John Ciardi, American poet (1916-86)

A Pint of Prehistory

The humans who migrated out of Africa starting around 50,000 years ago traveled in small nomadic bands, perhaps thirty strong, and lived in caves, huts, or skin tents. They hunted game, caught fish and shellfish, and gathered edible plants, moving from one temporary camp to another to exploit seasonal food supplies. Their tools included bows and arrows, fishhooks, and needles. But then, starting around 12,000 years ago, a remarkable shift occurred. Humans in the Near East abandoned the old hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Paleolithic period (old stone age) and began to take up farming instead, settling down in villages which eventually grew to become the world's first cities. They also developed many new technologies, including pottery, wheeled vehicles, and writing.

Ever since the emergence of "anatomically modern" humans, or Homo sapiens sapiens, in Africa around 150,000 years ago, water had been humankind's basic drink. A fluid of primordial importance, it makes up two-thirds of the human body, and no life on Earth can exist without it. But with the switch from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a more settled way of life, humans came to rely on a new beverage derived from barley and wheat, the cereal grains that were the first plants to be deliberately cultivated. This drink became central to social, religious, and economic life and was the staple beverage of the earliest civilizations. It was the drink that first helped humanity along the path to the modern world: beer.

Exactly when the first beer was brewed is not known. There was almost certainly no beer before 10,000 BCE, but it was widespread in the Near East by 4000 BCE, when it appears in a pictogram from Mesopotamia, a region that corresponds to modern-day Iraq, depicting two figures drinking beer through reed straws from a large pottery jar. (Ancient beer had grains, chaff, and other debris floating on its surface, so a straw was necessary to avoid swallowing them.)

Since the first examples of writing date from around 3400 BCE, the earliest written documents can shed no direct light on beer's origins. What is clear, however, is that the rise of beer was closely associated with the domestication of the cereal grains from which it is made and the adoption of farming. It came into existence during a turbulent period in human history that witnessed the switch from a nomadic to a settled lifestyle, followed by a sudden increase in social complexity manifested most strikingly in the emergence of cities. Beer is a liquid relic from human prehistory, and its origins are closely intertwined with the origins of civilization itself.

Beer was not invented but discovered. Its discovery was inevitable once the gathering of wild grains became widespread after the end of the last ice age, around 10,000 BCE, in a region known as the Fertile Crescent. This area stretches from modern-day Egypt, up the Mediterranean coast to the southeast corner of Turkey, and then down again to the border between Iraq and Iran. It is so named because of a happy accident of geography. When the ice age ended, the uplands of the region provided an ideal environment for wild sheep, goats, cattle, and pigs-and, in some areas, for dense stands of wild wheat and barley. This meant the Fertile Crescent provided unusually rich pickings for roving bands of human hunter-gatherers. They not only hunted animals and gathered edible plants but collected the abundant cereal grains growing wild in the region.

Such grains provided an unexciting but reliable source of food. Although unsuitable for consumption when raw, they can be made edible by roughly pounding or crushing them and then soaking them in water. Initially, they were probably just mixed into soup. A variety of ingredients such as fish, nuts, and berries would have been mixed with water in a plastered or bitumen-lined basket. Stones, heated in a fire, were then dropped in, using a forked stick. Grains contain tiny granules of starch, and when placed in hot water they absorb moisture and then burst, releasing the starch into the soup and thickening it considerably.

Cereal grains, it was soon discovered, had another unusual property: Unlike other foodstuffs, they could be stored for consumption months or even years later, if kept dry and safe. When no other foodstuffs were available to make soup, they could be used on their own to make either a thick porridge or a thin broth or gruel. This discovery led to the development of tools and techniques to collect, process, and store grain. It involved quite a lot of effort but provided a way to guard against the possibility of future food shortages. Throughout the Fertile Crescent there is archaeological evidence from around 10,000 BCE of flint-bladed sickles for harvesting cereal grains, woven baskets for carrying them, stone hearths for drying them, underground pits for storing them, and grindstones for processing them.

Although hunter-gatherers had previously led semisettled rather than entirely nomadic lives, moving between a number of temporary or seasonal shelters, the ability to store cereal grains began to encourage people to stay in one place. An experiment carried out in the 1960s shows why. An archaeologist used a flint-bladed sickle to see how efficiently a prehistoric family could have harvested wild grains, which still grow in some parts of Turkey. In one hour he gathered more than two pounds of grain, which suggested that a family that worked eight-hour days for three weeks would have been able to gather enough to provide each family member with a pound of grain a day for a year. But this would have meant staying near the stands of wild cereals to ensure the family did not miss the most suitable time to harvest them. And having gathered a large quantity of grain, they would be reluctant to leave it unguarded.

The result was the first permanent settlements, such as those established on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean from around 10,000 BCE. They consisted of simple, round huts with roofs supported by wooden posts and floors sunk up to a yard into the ground. These huts usually had a hearth and a floor paved with stones and were four or five yards in diameter. A typical village consisted of around fifty huts, supporting a community of two hundred or three hundred people. Although the residents of such villages continued to hunt wild animals such as gazelles, deer, and boar, skeletal evidence suggests that they subsisted on a mainly plant-based diet of acorns, lentils, chickpeas, and cereals, which at this stage were still gathered in the wild, rather than cultivated deliberately.

Cereal grains, which started off as relatively unimportant foodstuffs, took on greater significance following the discovery that they had two more unusual properties. The first was that grain soaked in water, so that it starts to sprout, tastes sweet. It was difficult to make storage pits perfectly watertight, so this property would have become apparent as soon as humans first began to store grain. The cause of this sweetness is now understood: Moistened grain produces diastase enzymes, which convert starch within the grain into maltose sugar, or malt. (This process occurs in all cereal grains, but barley produces by far the most diastase enzymes and hence the most maltose sugar.) At a time when few other sources of sugar were available, the sweetness of this "malted" grain would have been highly valued, prompting the development of deliberate malting techniques, in which the grain was first soaked and then dried.

The second discovery was even more momentous. Gruel that was left sitting around for a couple of days underwent a mysterious transformation, particularly if it had been made with malted grain: It became slightly fizzy and pleasantly intoxicating, as the action of wild yeasts from the air fermented the sugar in the gruel into alcohol. The gruel, in short, turned into beer.

Even so, beer was not necessarily the first form of alcohol to pass human lips. At the time of beer's discovery, alcohol from the accidental fermentation of fruit juice (to make wine) or water and honey (to make mead) would have occurred naturally in small quantities as people tried to store fruit or honey. But fruit is seasonal and perishes easily, wild honey was only available in limited quantities, and neither wine nor mead could be stored for very long without pottery, which did not emerge until around 6000 BCE. Beer, on the other hand, could be made from cereal crops, which were abundant and could be easily stored, allowing beer to be made reliably, and in quantity, when needed. Long before pottery was available, it could have been brewed in pitch-lined baskets, leather bags or animal stomachs, hollowed-out trees, large shells, or stone vessels. Shells were used for cooking as recently as the nineteenth century in the Amazon basin, and Sahti, a traditional beer made in Finland, is still brewed in hollowed-out trees today.

Once the crucial discovery of beer had been made, its quality was improved through trial and error. The more malted grain there is in the original gruel, for example, and the longer it is left to ferment, the stronger the beer. More malt means more sugar, and a longer fermentation means more of the sugar is turned into alcohol. Thoroughly cooking the gruel also contributes to the beer's strength. The malting process converts only around 15 percent of the starch found in barley grains into sugar, but when malted barley is mixed with water and brought to the boil, other starch-converting enzymes, which become active at higher temperatures, turn more of the starch into sugar, so there is more sugar for the yeast to transform into alcohol.

Ancient brewers also noticed that using the same container repeatedly for brewing produced more reliable results. Later historical records from Egypt and Mesopotamia show that brewers always carried their own "mash tubs" around with them, and one Mesopotamian myth refers to "containers which make the beer good." Repeated use of the same mash tub promoted successful fermentation because yeast cultures took up residence in the container's cracks and crevices, so that there was no need to rely on the more capricious wild yeast. Finally, adding berries, honey, spices, herbs, and other flavorings to the gruel altered the taste of the resulting beer in various ways. Over the next few thousand years, people discovered how to make a variety of beers of different strengths and flavors for different occasions.

Later Egyptian records mention at least seventeen kinds of beer, some of them referred to in poetic terms that sound, to modern ears, almost like advertising slogans: Different beers were known as "the beautiful and good," "the heavenly," "the joy-bringer," "the addition to the meal," "the plentiful," "the fermented." Beers used in religious ceremonies also had special names. Similarly, early written references to beer from Mesopotamia, in the third millennium BCE, list over twenty different kinds, including fresh beer, dark beer, fresh-dark beer, strong beer, red-brown beer, light beer, and pressed beer. Red-brown beer was a dark beer made using extra malt, while pressed beer was a weaker, more watery brew that contained less grain. Mesopotamian brewers could also control the taste and color of their beer by adding different amounts of bappir, or beer-bread. To make bappir, sprouted barley was shaped into lumps, like small loaves, which were baked twice to produce a dark-brown, crunchy, unleavened bread that could be stored for years before being crumbled into the brewer's vat. Records indicate that bappir was kept in government storehouses and was only eaten during food shortages; it was not so much a foodstuff as a convenient way to store the raw material for making beer.

The Mesopotamian use of bread in brewing has led to much debate among archaeologists, some of whom have suggested that bread must therefore be an offshoot of beer making, while others have argued that bread came first and was subsequently used as an ingredient in beer. It seems most likely, however, that both bread and beer were derived from gruel. A thick gruel could be baked in the sun or on a hot stone to make flatbread; a thin gruel could be left to ferment into beer. The two were different sides of the same coin: Bread was solid beer, and beer was liquid bread.

Under the Influence of Beer?

Since writing had not been invented at the time, there are no written records to attest to the social and ritual importance of beer in the Fertile Crescent during the new stone age, or Neolithic period, between 9000 BCE and 4000 BCE. But much can be inferred from later records of the way beer was used by the first literate civilizations, the Sumerians of Mesopotamia and the ancient Egyptians. Indeed, so enduring are the cultural traditions associated with beer that some of them survive to this day.

From the start, it seems that beer had an important function as a social drink. Sumerian depictions of beer from the third millennium BCE generally show two people drinking through straws from a shared vessel. By the Sumerian period, however, it was possible to filter the grains, chaff, and other debris from beer, and the advent of pottery meant it could just as easily have been served in individual cups. That beer drinkers are, nonetheless, so widely depicted using straws suggests that it was a ritual that persisted even when straws were no longer necessary.

The most likely explanation for this preference is that, unlike food, beverages can genuinely be shared. When several people drink beer from the same vessel, they are all consuming the same liquid; when cutting up a piece of meat, in contrast, some parts are usually deemed to be more desirable than others. As a result, sharing a drink with someone is a universal symbol of hospitality and friendship. It signals that the person offering the drink can be trusted, by demonstrating that it is not poisoned or otherwise unsuitable for consumption. The earliest beer, brewed in a primitive vessel in an era that predated the use of individual cups, would have to have been shared. Although it is no longer customary to offer visitors a straw through which to drink from a communal vat of beer, today tea or coffee may be offered from a shared pot, or a glass of wine or spirits from a shared bottle. And when drinking alcohol in a social setting, the clinking of glasses symbolically reunites the glasses into a single vessel of shared liquid. These are traditions with very ancient origins.


Excerpted from The History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage Copyright © 2005 by Tom Standage . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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A History of the World in 6 Glasses 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 133 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I originally got this for extra credit for school and thought it would be a boring read, but as I started reading it, I found that I could not put it down. It is amazing how 6 different drinks have affect the world.
JasmineS More than 1 year ago
From bacteria infested water to modern day Coca-Cola, Tom Standage explores all the major eras of the world explaining how "the drink of the time" affected the people, trade, customs, health and social aspects of a civilization. Dating back to 10,000 BC when people began to consume the first alcoholic drink, beer, to modern day times where coca-cola is most commonly served, the book explores who discovered/invented the drink, where it spread to, the methods by which the drink spread, the purpose it served, and how it affected civilizations. Most drinks where not invented but discovered. The first five drinks (beer, wine, distilled drinks, coffee and tea) origins are lost in prehistory, with no clear time as to where it was created or discovered. Some drinks where restricted to specific religious or ethnic groups while others where widely consumed. Many held religious significance as well, and origins where told through legends and myth. Some drinks promoted key turning points in history and prosperous times for countries across the globe. These drinks became stable food supply and helped carry civilizations to where we are today. The History of the World in 6 Glasses was an easy read that told how a simple liquid would forever impact history. This book provided an interesting way to display how different drinks raised different lifestyles and cultures. Reading this book I realized just how big of an impact a drink can have on a civilization and its people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was an exciting combination of factual evidence and the following humor resulting from the occureneces of drinking in the different societies of the world. Not only was this book filled with historical evidence, the viewpoint of the importance of these drinks is clearly defined by their use in the many communities of both civilized and uncultivated people. The historical references date back into the time of Mesopotamia, which I found to be highly impressive in itself, and should be a sign to anyone who is debating how good of a comprehension the author had in this subject. The relevance of this article in today's world is immense and easily decipherable. The importance of the diversity in drinks is evident by the clear explanation of the 6 drinks of the world: Beer, Wine, Spirits, Coffee, Tea, and Coca Cola. His thorough descriptions in the creation, uses, and acceptance in society make this book highly educational. Unlike many historical books, this novel allows the reader to enjoy a moderately short jaunt into history. People of any educated age can come to appreciate this book and what it's information determines. I recomend this book to anyone who wants to learn about the history of past empires and civiliztaions. Tom Standage creates a vivid and enjoyable novel that truly defines the ages of mankind into easily understandable sections, so as the reader can fully grasp how the world has evolved since the Mesopotamians to the Civilizations in the world today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
refreshingly written, imbibed with all sorts of 'i-didn't-know-that' bits. had no idea how civilization had shifted due to the current beverage of choice. fascinating, totally readable. an unusual and fabulous book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book covers an amazing amount of information in a unique and often humourous way. It will make even people who say they hate history be entertained. By dividing major shifts in history by the drinks we consume every day, it gives the reader a sense of continuity to the human race. You don't even realize how much you've learned until the book ends in a full circle, both starting and ending with... WATER. By dropping names that we recognize but may not exactly remember what it was they did or when, the book does a fine job of making history make sense. Highly recommend.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A History of the World in Six Glasses by Tom Standage is an extremely interesting book that summarizes how society and global evolution took place due, in large part, to the spread and popularity of six defining drinks: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and coca cola. The author shows his readers how these beverages were extremely important in shaping the many pivotal events of history and how they allowed for transitions in human civilizations and relationships. Using accurate historical evidence along with his astounding connections and descriptions, Standage creates an extremely detailed depiction of the world's history from the origins of civilization to present day society. In my opinion, the author did an impressive job writing this novel, for he was able to consolidate the history of human existence and interactions into a short writing while expressing a convincing and logical explanation as to how six beverages were able to shape the world's history.

After reading this informational, yet enjoyable novel, I was able to clearly understand how something as small as a beverage could immensely sculpt the many peoples and places of history. Tom Standage was able to give me an insight into the world's history through a perspective I had never considered before, and I enjoyed this novel much more than I had anticipated. That being said, I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is curious to how the path of the world's evolution was shaped by seemingly insignificant attributes-beverages!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book takes the reader though six cultures and the beverages associated with them. Beer for the ancient Egyptians and Sumerians.: Wine for the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Spirits aka Booze comes next: whiskey rum, etc. and their historic roles.Caffeine is the common element in the next three: coffee, tea, and Coca-cola The book tells of the "discovery" of each and the era when it dominated. The epilogue tells of another drink known since the cave men which has found new popularity today.
bmartinak More than 1 year ago
As an AP World History teacher, I'm somewhat disturbed by the fact that many of these so-called AP students refer to the book as a "novel," which is, as we all should know, a work of fiction, which Mr Standage's book clearly is not. Beyond that, "Six Glasses" is a fun read, a refreshing new persepctive, and an interesting compaion to Reay Tannehill's "Food In History."
NilsB More than 1 year ago
I read this book for World History AP and it is the fastest way to learn about the history of the entire globe. It is not exclusively a western civilization narrative, it covers the ENTIRE world. I recomemend this to anyone, especially if they are not interested in history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved this. Gave how each of these drinks - beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and cola affected history in their eras and wrapped up where you could find versions of them from those eras.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tom Standage's novel, A History of the World in 6 Glasses gives a new perspective of tracing the history of the world. The author uses the ingenious idea of using 6 beverages: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and coca cola to communicate to the reader how our world has the beginning of civilization and Mesopotamia through modern day around these drinks. Standage does an impressive job with connecting all of these drinks to history, and also describing how they shape civilizations and the world's development. One of my favorite connections was how the author describes some drinks importance in religion, as well as society. It was also interesting how the author explains how most of the beverages were in fact discovered, not invented. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in world history, or the desire to acquire a new perspective on the development of world civilizations. The reader is also provided with a perspective of the development of the entire world, not just the standard, primarily western viewpoint of development, which I also found intriguing. In addition, Standage does a remarkable job of keeping the reader's attention with a strong voice and new ideas for the reader to contemplate as they read. In fact, as soon as I began to read this book, I found it hard to put down! However, I would not recommend this novel to a person who does not have an interest in history. In my opinion, The History of the World in 6 Glasses was an extraordinary book that was full of historical content that I found fascinating.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
APWH Review; A fun way to learn the history of our world Standage's novel is a wonderful way to learn about how something as simple as a beverage can alter the location, people, and economy around it. The introduction of these drinks helped them to not be so dependent on living right next to a water source. The book mostly covers the start, impressions, and spread of the beverages. He also explains the drinks in relation to religions.  At first, I thought the book was going to be written like a typical boring history book. Instead, the book was full of graphics related to the text, and provided a deeper insight into information. It was interesting to learn that some drinks we associate with certain areas got their starts in the other side of the world. I enjoyed how each section was written in a way that you could easily connect them back to the other sections. He made sure to include important events that we may associate with a certain time period, but all the while making sure to tie it back to the drink. He efficiently conveyed the information he wanted to, but kept it very understandable. Standage is a great writer, and I recommend this book to any history lover desiring to learn more in this area.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
AP World History Review For someone who has a desire to learn about the past cultures and histories of our world, Standage's novel, History of the World in 6 Glasses, provides an adequate resource. It follows six beverages in different areas of the world and their affect on culture, society, economics, and the geography of the land. It demonstrates how essential common drinks such as beer and coffee can be to communities. The author completes his purpose well in creating a well-constructed book of the cultures of the world. His books helps us to realize how important beverages are to the development of our world. Generally preferring to read fiction myself, it took me a while to get into this book and adjust to the flow and structure of Standage's writing. However, once I did so, History of the World in 6 Glasses proved to be an extremely educational book. He makes it fun and entertaining to explore the past empires as they changed over time. Without a doubt, I would recommend it to any, young or old, desiring to educate themselves thoroughly of the past. Not only does this book discuss separate ancient civilizations in depth, but also talks of the way these civilizations intertwined and connected to form the more modern civilizations and peoples of today. It doesn't take a college historian to understand this book, which is good, because I doubt we all are experts here. More simplistic than some, this book still provides an excellent source of knowledge, and is a definite read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book could have been great with a bit more detail. It was best when the author was setting up the origin of a drink.
PPeloquin More than 1 year ago
A very unique way of examining the past. This look at the development of various cultures throughout history and the relationship of their major beverages is an original approach, which is both informative and entertaining. Find out how the indulgence in your favorite drink may make you a part of history!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very interesting book. Tom Standage uses beer, wine, coffee, tea, spirits, and coca-cola. This is different than any other person has before, most people associate and describe the world through war, explortion, and even political power. This is a very interesting and great read, you will enjoy this book if think deep down and inside the ways of all the colonies mentioned and how they are linked to the glass of their time perod. As we learn early on in the book, most of these beverages were important to the society. The Egyptians used their glass as a form of currency, paying their taxes to the pharoh with it. This was also some of the only drinks (other than water) that these colonies had back then. Coca-cola was not yet invented yet in the time of Wine in Greece. So many Greeks only choice was wine. Coca-cola in the New Wrold was probably the most interesting to me. Standage compares coca-cola to globalization of the world. He not only compares it to globalization, but he links it to the global economy and how massive of an effect it has had.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tom Standage uses the lens of beverages throughout this book, which helps portray the extensive human history he explains. It makes it more captivating to read and a great way to show the true significance of something we take for granted everyday. He travels through the stone ages, to the turn of agriculture, through new and old civilizations up until now. He really connects to the turning point of the agricultural revolution. It is a leading factor in the creation of civilizations in general and connects all the pieces of our human history together. By doing so he takes history to the next level. Using beverages and this main turning point he is able to connect all of human evolution back to a few points. In this case, I believe he completed his purpose. He didn't write this book to have a personal opinion about our history, but to better educate people about our history. It also makes sense that he connects the history back to science because of his job which is to do just that. I would highly recommend this book if you are looking fora great crash course in the world's history. Wether you enjoy history or not he makes simple facts interesting. Using something we take for granted everyday to educate not only about our history, but also about the drinks that shaped our history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tom Standage presents the history of the world in context to the invention and spread of 6 drinks: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and soda. The book definitely has an individual take on history and shows how drinks have had major impacts and deserve more credit than we give them. Overall the book was interesting and fairly easy to read and understand. The author completes his purpose by giving an understanding of world history and the events that occured around the drinks that he uses to share his knowledge. Occasionally, the book gets somewhat repetitive or stretches out certain events longer than necessary but it doesn’t have any major negatives. Some of the chapters are more well written and detailed than others as well; the later chapters in the book are longer and generally provide a more complex understanding. The book also jumps back and forth in time and can be confusing as to the time period and context needed to understand what the author is trying to say. I would recommend this book because it has a unique perspective on world history and shows how drinks have impacted history in a way a person would not normally think of. The book provides insight on how drinks impact everything from class structures to politics. The author gives a good basic understanding of world history even for those who don’t always enjoy history. Despite some of the negatives the book has, such as being chronologically confusing or having inconsistent quality, the positives outweigh the negatives as this book is a much more interesting way to gain knowledge about world history than just reading a textbook. If you choose to read this book you will hopefully enjoy it and it’s unique telling of the history of the world using drinks.
apartmentcarpet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a fun, quirky look at how six drinks shaped and were shaped by history. Beer, wine, liqueur, coffee, tea, and cola are discussed: how they arose, how they were viewed, and how they affected world events. I especially enjoyed the section that talked about early coffee houses as dens of revolution.
DavidGoldsteen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Standage's "History of the World in 6 Glasses", like his "Edible History of Humanity," provides an interesting view into history from a vantage point that is at once novel yet familiar to all of us. It's full of gee-whiz facts about the development of various drinks and how they both influenced and reflected their times. Standage's style is clear and enjoyable.
bfertig on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This pleasant-enough little ditty takes a look at the origins of six drinks that have prominently played a role in various world civilizations over time. Three contain alcohol: beer, wine, and spirits, while three contain caffeine: coffee, tea, and Coca-Cola. The widespread consumption of these drinks generally overlaps with major paradigm shifts in civilizations: shifting to agrarian societies in ancient Middle East, the dominance of the Greek and Roman empires, expansion of global European exploration and trade, the clarity of Enlightenment and Revolutionary thinking, the military dominance of the British Empire, and influence of American consumerism. The book ends with some general thoughts on the current and future importance of water as a drink and scarce resource and suggests that perhaps we have come full circle.The book serves to bring together in a general way the origins of these drinks and some of the main contemporary events through world history. Its main utility in doing so, I feel, is to provide fodder for fun factoids to foist upon friends at cocktail parties. The chapters are short and a bit choppy, but generally end with a tidy tidbit that is easily remembered and brought out on short notice for pub trivia. It¿s as if the reader is on tour with an alcoholic and ADD-addled guide: the flow is fairly quick, each chapter is eager to end, and before you know it you¿ve traveled two centuries and halfway across the world. I didn¿t think this book was as well or thoroughly researched as it could have been. There¿s very little (if anything) new brought to light regarding world history or even the drinks and remains on well-trod turf throughout, though it does provide a decent synthesis. The depth is only far enough to provide a few interesting factoids about each drink rather than to pursue detail on any of them in particular. This makes the book a fairly light and easy read, but can leave the reader with many questions. No references, end notes, or foot notes were used in the text itself, and the bibliography is fairly slim. A few statements seemed off to me, many appeared to be unsupported or overstated, and I questioned a few as to how he or anyone could possibly claim to know. I¿ll give it three stars for the solidity of its mediocrity, and recommend it to anyone who wants to know just enough to sound mildly impressive while mildly inebriated. Cheers! L¿Chaim! Salud!
conformer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Standage maps out the world's fortunes along the trade paths of six beverages, three alcoholic, three caffeinated. While all six manage to make people rich as well as exploit them, it's the later chapters that are notable in documenting the lengths some people went thru for their booze, right down to trying to distill pine needles and other organic rubbish. Easy to read and slightly cursory; if you didn't already know where your drink came from, this stands as a decent primer.
manatree on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Quick and easy read on the history of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea & Coca-Cola. WHile neither drink is covered in great detail, he does provide recommended readings for those who want to delve deeper.
librarygeek33 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not exactly a page-turner, but very interesting.
kidsilkhaze on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book traces the role of beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola and their role in world history. Beer developed to make water safe to drink as we shifted fron hunting/gathering to grain cultivation, and maybe we even started farming in order to get more grain for more beer? The role of wine in Greek and Roman culture and refinement, spirits as Europeans came to new world, cultivated sugar and made rum as a by-product which was then sold for slaves to run the sugar plantations... and the role of the whiskey rebellion in building the new world. Coffee and coffeehouses came with the age of reason and tea came with Empire (the was a major factor in the Opium Wars which ended with the humiliation of China and England's possession of Hong Kong) and then finally, the rise of Coca-Cola and America as a super-power and globalization.The epilogue then deals with how we have come full circle and the beverage affecting our current events is, once again, water.Well written and engaging, I highly recommend this title.