Wednesday 6 February 2013

Book Review - A History of the World in Six Glasses

The idea of this book, A History of the World in Six Glasses, intrigued me. In fact the first quote of the book grabbed me:

There is no history of mankind, there are only many histories of all kinds of aspects of human life" - Karl Popper, philosopher of science (1902-94)

I have read about how rum has changed the world, the history of beer, England and the IPA, but this book tells the entire history of the world through six different beverages, beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and the last one surprised me ... Coca-Cola.

Whatever your favourite tipple, when you pour yourself a drink, you have the past in a glass. You can likely find them all in your own kitchen — beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, cola. Line them up on the counter, and there you have it: thousands of years of human history in six drinks. Tom Standage opens a window onto the past in this tour of six beverages that remain essentials today. En route he makes fascinating forays into the byways of western culture: Why were ancient Egyptians buried with beer? Why was wine considered a “classier” drink than beer by the Romans? How did rum grog help the British navy defeat Napoleon? What is the relationship between coffee and revolution? And how did Coca-Cola become the number one poster-product for globalization decades before the term was even coined?

The book was an interesting and a fast read. It starts, of course, with beer, one of the first man-made drinks, discovered thousands of years ago in Mesopotamia, how it likely was discovered, its supposed medicinal powers and how it was used in celebration back in that period.

The book then brings in wine as the next discovered beverage and how it affected the next period of human history. The book goes on like this, telling the history of the each drink and how it brought along the next period of human history. Ingenious really!

The final chapters are on the 20th century and how Coca-Cola became the first global product. I found that chapter the most interesting of them all.

Six drinks, three of them alcoholic, three of them caffeinated, each becoming a part of a period of history in the thousands of years of mankind.

The book has an extra chapter on the beverage that will tell the story of the next period of our history, but I won't spoil it for you.

I really enjoyed this book and finish with a quote from the start of a chapter

A billion hours ago, human life appeared on earth,
A billion minutes ago, Christianity emerged,
A billion seconds, the Beatles changed music,
A billion Coca-Colas ago was yesterday morning.
-Robert Goizueta, chief executive of the Coca-Cola Company, April 1997

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