New York Times Bestseller
From beer to Coca-Cola, the six drinks that have helped shape human history.
Written with authority and charm by journalist Tom Standage, 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 six beverages that have had a surprisingly pervasive influence on the course of human events: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola.
First made in the Fertile Crescent, beer became so important to Mesopotamia and Egypt that by 3000 B.C.E. it was being used as currency. The main export of Ancient Greece's vast seaborne trade, wine helped spread its culture abroad. Spirits such as brandy and rum fueled the Age of Exploration, fortifying men on long voyages and oiling the pernicious slave trade. Originating in the Arab world, coffee stoked revolutionary thought in Europe during the Age of Reason, when coffeehouses became centers of intellectual exchange. Hundreds of years after the Chinese began drinking tea, it had far-reaching effects on British foreign policy. Carbonated drinks, invented in 18th-century Europe and popularized in the 20th-century, are now a leading symbol of globalization, particularly Coca-Cola.
"Incisive, illuminating, and swift," (New York Times), A History of the World in 6 Glasses shows the intricate interplay of different civilizations in a fascinating new light. For Standage, each drink is a kind of technology, a catalyst for advancing culture. You may never look at your favorite drink the same way again.
Standage starts with a bold hypothesis that each epoch, from the Stone Age to the present, has had its signature beverage and takes readers on an extraordinary trip through world history. The Economist's technology editor has the ability to connect the smallest detail to the big picture and a knack for summarizing vast concepts in a few sentences. He explains how, when humans shifted from hunting and gathering to farming, they saved surplus grain, which sometimes fermented into beer. The Greeks took grapes and made wine, later borrowed by the Romans and the Christians. Arabic scientists experimented with distillation and produced spirits, the ideal drink for long voyages of exploration. Coffee also spread quickly from Arabia to Europe, becoming the "intellectual counterpoint to the geographical expansion of the Age of Exploration." European coffee-houses, which functioned as "the Internet of the Age of Reason," facilitated scientific, financial and industrial cross-fertilization. In the British industrial revolution that followed, tea "was the lubricant that kept the factories running smoothly." Finally, the rise of American capitalism is mirrored in the history of Coca-Cola, which started as a more or less handmade medicinal drink but morphed into a mass-produced global commodity over the course of the 20th century. In and around these grand ideas, Standage tucks some wonderful tidbits on the antibacterial qualities of tea, Mecca's coffee trials in 1511, Visigoth penalties for destroying vineyards ending with a delightful appendix suggesting ways readers can sample ancient beverages. 24 b&w illus.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I am going into my junior year of high school, and for the class I'm taking(Ap world history) we had a summer assignment where we had to choose a book to read from the list we were givin, which had about 15 different choices, then write a 5 page essay. In my mind I was not looking forward to it because history isn't the most exciting thing to read about it. I went through all of the "good" sounding book on the list and didnt like any of them. So even though the name of the book sounded boring because at the time I thought who would want to read a book about dreams. But as soon as I started reading I couldn't stop. I LOVED IT!!!!! I couldn't believe how interesting it was. I would highly recomend this book
A great enjoyable read. Extensively researched and informative, yet reads like a novel.
Best History Book
It manages to put all the important world information (that huge textbooks usually use hundreds of pages to explain) in only about/nearly 300 pages