72 pages 2 hours read

Tom Standage

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2005

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Important Quotes

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“Fermentation and civilization are inseparable” 

(Chapter 1, Page 9)

This quotation forms the epigraph to the opening chapter and encapsulates Standage’s argument that the discovery of beer—made by fermenting grains—enabled the emergence of civilizations such as those found in Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt, which gave the world the first systems of writing and accountancy, as well as the first cities. 

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“[S]haring 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” 

(Chapter 1, Page 18)

Throughout the book, Standage emphasizes the social role that beverages play. Humans drink not only to maintain life and health, but also to form and maintain social bonds. While competition—for land, resources and wealth—are an integral part of human history, sharing is too, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the sharing of food and drink.

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“The Mesopotamians regarded the consumption of bread and beer as one of the things that distinguished them from savages and made them fully human”

(Chapter 2, Page 27)

What it means to be human is one of the great existential questions and it continues to be posed to this day. For many ancient civilizations, agriculture, and the food and drink that resulted from it, distinguished them from their hunter-gatherer ancestors and thus became a mark of humanity.