“A History of the World in 6 Glasses”
The author’s main thesis is that ever since humans have settled around rivers, drinks have greatly shaped human history. These fluids are vital because unlike food, humans can not go long without drinking water and water is needed for our survival.
Beer’s discovery may have led to the transition from a hunting and gathering to agricultural-based society by causing humans to stay near the cereal grains that produced beer. As stated by Tom Standage “But this would mean 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”. Cereal grains were a greatly reliable source of food and unlike other food that was availible at the time, cereal grains were abundant and could be stored for 11future consumption for a long time. Since people could efficiently harvest these crops, that would last them a long time, it was more logical to stay close to where the grains grew.
The history of beer tells us that in Southwest Asia and Egypt, people had different social statuses than others. Standage writes “In Mesopotamia, cuneiform records indicate that the lowest-ranking members of the Sumerian temple workforce were issued a sila of beer a day— roughly equivalent to a liter, or two American pints— as part of their ration. Junior officials were given two sila, higher officials and ladies of the court three sila, and the highest officials five sila”. Social roles were heavily influenced by the consumption. of beer. Despite their social rank and gender, everyone could consume beer, however they were just given a certain amount of beer depending on where they stand on the social heirachy. Additionally, the “bride price” which included beer and was paid by the groom’s family to the bride’s family, illustrated that women had a lesser standing in society than men.
Beer was important in the growth and diffusion of the earliest civilzations, to a certain extent. Beer allowed people to become less reliant on water and took on many roles in society, but was only one of the many factors that swayed people away from hunting and gathering to farming. Without beer Southwest Asia and Egypt would not have been as prosperous because beer was a major part of society and the economy.
The history of wine illustrates that in the Mediterranean world, people had different social status. In the Mediterranean, wine was an indicator of one’s social status. Standage writes “Accordingly, only the elite could afford to drink it, and its main use was religious; its scarcity and high price made it worthy for consumption by the gods, when it was available. Most people never tasted it at all”(46). Since importing wine was difficult, the price of wine rose.
Wine drinking and the symposia made the ancient Greeks see themselves as sophisticated and cultured people. Standage writes “For the Greeks, wine drinking was synonymous with civilizations and refinement: What kind of wine you drank, and its age, indicated how cultured you were.”(Standage 55-56). The Greeks prided themselves on drinking wine because it showed how spohisticated they were compared to others. Other cultures that drank beer or wine without water were thought as barbariac and uncultured by the Greeks. The symposia also showed how sophiticated the Greeks were because it showed their ability to behave and have intelligent conversations while intoxicated instead of committing violent acts like those who they called barbarians.
In Christianity, wine is heavily mentioned. Christ turned six jars of water into wine at a wedding, told his followers “I am the vine, you are the branches,”(Standage 85), and shared his bread and wine with his supporters at the Last Supper. In turn, this led to the eucharist, a ritual in which Christians consume bread and wine which are supposed to symbolized the body and blood of Christ in remembrance of him. In Islam however, wine, along with other alcholic drinks are forbidden. After the prophet Muhhammad had seen two of his disciples fight at a drinking party, he asked for Allah’s guidance. Allah replied “Wine and games of chance … are abominations devised by Satan. Avoid them and you may prosper. Satan seeks to stir up enmity and hatred among you by means of wine and gambling, and to keep you from remembrance of Allah and from your prayers. Will you not abstain from them?’(Standage 87)
Spirits played a major part in advancing colonialism. When European countries began to colonize countries in the New World, they found land to produce sugar but lacked the workforce to complete produce the sugar so they resorted to mass slavery. At first the Europeans kidnapped slaves but then agreed to buy them, in exchange for European goods. One of the goods exchanged was brandy. Brandy became so popular among the African slave traders that it became common for Europeans to present large amounts of brandy, known as dashee, as a gift before even buying the slaves. According to William Bosman, a Dutch slave trader, the Africans of Whydah would not do business at all unless they had first been presented with suffient dashee. (Standage 105). Furthermore brandy was also used to pay the canoemen who transferred the goods and the guards who transferred the slaves onto the ships.
Spirits dramitically shifted the balance of power between Britain and France by making the British Navy healthier. Standage writes “ one of the main causes of death among sailors at the time was scurvy, a wasting disease that is now known to be caused by a lack of vitamin C. The best way to prevent it, discovered and forgotten many times during the eighteenth century, was to adminster regular doses of lemon or lime juice.” (Standage 109-110) Once the British replaced the Navy’s Beer, which has no vitamin C , with grog that included lemon or lime juice, the british were less likely to get scurvy and were just healthier than their French counterparts. The French at the time had switched their Navy’s wine, which had some vitamin C, for eua-de-vie which virtually had none. In turn French’s health was depleting as the Britain’s health was increasing which led to Britain success.
Spirits played a big role in the independence movement in America. They were a domino in the chain that led to the revolutionary war. When the New England distillers brought molasses from the French , the British intervented and passed the Molasses Act of 1773. Standage writes” The act levied a prohibitive duty of sixpence per gallon on molasses imported into North America colonies from foreign (in other word, French )colonies or plantations.” (Standage 117) This act was supposed toget disterllers to buy british molasses instead but there was not enough molasses produced by the british to satisfy their demand, so the new england disterillerrs completely ignored the law and continued to get their molasses from the french. This gave the colonies the courage to revolt agaianst any other laws they found unjust.
The role coffee played in the intellectual development of Europe was that coffee gave people a place to share ideas,gossip, and have intelluctual conversations. etc. A contemperary observer noted “The Coffee-houses particularly are very commudious for a free Conversation, and for reading at an easie Rate all manner of printed News, the Votes of Parliament whensittingg, and other Prints that come out Weekly or casullay. Amongst which the London Gazette comes out on Mundays and Thursdays, the Daily Courant every day but Sunday , the Postman, Flying-post , and Post-Boy, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and the English post, Mundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; besides their frequent Postscripts.” (Standage 152). Coffee led to people going to coffee houses and conversating with others about the latest news, scientific delvelopments, politics and philopsophy. Informatiom ideas, opnions were shared among writers, scientists, polictians, businessmen,and even regular people were shared over a cup of coffee. The discussions at these coffehouses led more people to think more reasonably.
Coffee was the true first global beverage. Standage writes” Coffee had come a long way from its obsecure origins as a religious drink in Yemen. After permeating the Arab world, it had been embraced throughout Europe and was then spread around the world by European powers.” (Standage 150). At first coffee was created in Arabia and then made its way into Europe. Europe become vastly interested(?) in coffee and tried to grow coffee beans in their own regions. Once they had coffee in their possession, they started to send their coffee to their colonies around the world. Coffee able to be enjoyed around the world.
Coffee played a pivotal role in the Enlightenment and French Revolution by creating an environment where it was almost like an egalitarian society. According to an eighteeth century account “ The coffee-houses are visited by respectable persons of both sexes: we see among them many various types: men-about-town, coquettish women, abbes, country bumpkins, journalists, the parties to a law-suit, drinkers, gamsters, parasites, adventurers in the field of love or industry, young men of letters—in a word, an unending series of persons.” (Standage 168). Coffee-houses in a France was a place where everyone was treated equally. Unlike in England even women were allowed into coffee-houses. This resembled what the Enlightment thinkers wanted French socitey to be like.
Coffee-houses also gave were efficient in spreading information. standage writes “ are not only within, but other expectant crowds are at the doors and windows, listening a gorge deployee [open-mouthed] to certain orators who from chairs or tables in harangue each his little audience; the eagerness with which they are heard, and the thunder of applause they receive for every sentiment of more than common hardiness or violence against the government, cannot easily be imagined.” (Standage 170). Coffee- houses were places where people could spread information, especially against the government. Therefore before the revolution begun the Coffee-houses were the ideal places to alert the masses.
Tea was important to China’s economy because tea was an excellent export. Standage writes “The relationship between tea and the Industrial Revolution is that tea fueled the workers. It states “Unlike beer, the drink traditionally given to agricultural workers, tea did not gently dull the mind but sharpened it, thanks to the presence of caffeine. Tea kept workers alert on long and tedious shifts and improved their concentration when operating fast-moving machines.”(Standage 200). All the workers in these factories depended on tea to keep them alert and focus on their work during the long shifts. Tea kept the factories operating smoothly.