A History of the World in 6 Glasses

A History of the World in 6 Glasses

by Tom Standage
3.9 112

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A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

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: 9780802718594
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 05/26/2009
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 53,361
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Tom Standage is technology editor at the Economist, and the author of The Turk, The Neptune File, An Edible History of Humanity, and The Victorian Internet. He lives in Greenwich, England.
Tom Standage is digital editor at the Economist and editor-in-chief of its website, Economist.com. He is the author of six history books, including An Edible History of Humanity, the New York Times bestseller A History of the World in Six Glasses and The Victorian Internet. His writing has also appeared in the Daily Telegraph, the New York Times and Wired. He lives in London.


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A History of the World in 6 Glasses 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 112 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 12 months ago
AnonymousAPStudent More than 1 year ago
A History of the World in 6 Glasses is a great book that will help you prepare for the homework that comes with AP World History because it is about the same level of difficulty as the textbook. If you read it during the summer before you start the class, it will give you an idea of what the reading during the course will be like. You will not want to put this book down due to the fact that it is full of very interesting facts. It discusses the first settlements and how beer helped shape them, describes how wine influenced the culture of Greece and Rome, and explains how spirits were a part of the colonial era. The book also talks about tea and its impact on the British Empire, how coffee came to be, and how Coca-Cola boosted the soldiers’ spirits during WWII. Tom Standage’s purpose for writing this book was to inform. He completes his purpose by successfully informing his readers about the different drinks that helped shape humanity. He goes into very detailed descriptions about each drink, such as how each drink came about, which society each drink was created in, and how each drink affects the world today. It seems as if Tom Standage really does know what he is talking about because of how much detail he puts in his book. Overall, this book is a unique view of how the world was from the first permanent settlements through WWII. If you love World History, this would be a great book for you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
At first before I read A History of the World in 6 Glasses I wasn’t too sure on whether or not I’d enjoy it. I wasn’t very sure because I didn’t know if by dividing history up by the type of drink would be confusing. I never really saw how the drinks would have a large impact on history at first. I finally decided to give the book a chance because this book seemed to be one of the most interesting on the list. There were times while reading that I kind of began to lose interest in it. After a while of reading a chapter it seemed like it was just becoming repetitive and I would just want to skip to the next chapter. However I am glad that I stuck with it and decided to keep reading. In the end I think it proved to be worth my while. Overall I really liked the book because it shows a new way of dividing up different time periods throughout human history in which I thought was very unique. I really liked how Standage decided to start with Mesopotamia. I know just from my own writing experiences that figuring out where to start can be one of the hardest parts. I enjoyed the fact that he didn’t include too much or leave too much out most of the time. This book was very helpful to read because it helped me to further understand what we were learning in class while I was reading it. I learned a lot of new things while reading this book that I never knew before which was pretty cool. After reading this it made me wonder what’s going to be the next important beverage of the future or what drink is influencing history right now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very easy to read book, with viewpoints i never would have dreamed thinking about myself. Excellently done and a must read for those curious people out there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Easy, yet thought-provoking read. The epilogue about bottled water is a great addition. I especially enjoyed the historical connections such as grog giving the British navy a decisive advantage over the French at Trafalgar.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A different look at the history of the Western World powers. Packs a lot of history in the pages to provide a good overview of world history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Entertaining and a new way to look at how we evolved>
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
History of the World in Six Glasses In the book the History of the World in Six Glasses, it tells the story of how different drinks affected the world and its people. It talks of how beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola shaped the Earth’s civilizations and its people. The book is written by the author Tom Standage. I chose this book because I had watched many documentaries on how beer saved the world on the History Channel and found the topic interesting prior to reading it, this made the book much more enjoyable. The book describes the idea of theme one; Interactions between Humans and the Environment. It says this once at the beginning when describing how beer changed the world. Standage states, “Although the link between contaminated water and ill health was not understood until modern times, humans quickly became weary of unfamiliar water supplies, and to drink where possible from clear-running streams away from human settlements.” (22). this means before beer people had to go a far distance to get clean water, however with the introduction of beer humans could safely drink beer as it was heated killing all germs and bacteria. Next Standage talks about how tea helped encourage the European Industrial Revolution he says,”The Industrial Revolution, which started with the textile manufacturing and then spread into other fields, depended on agricultural and organizational innovations.”(199). This shows how tea affected the urbanization of Europe because people would have had to move to cottages in order to work in the new factories that were built and a result of tea giving people clear minds in order to create innovations. Next, Theme five; Development and Transformation of Social Structures, is expressed. Standage who is talking about social differences in wine states,”The rich drank from silver or gold drinking vessels, rather than pottery.”(60). This shows that there was social inequality emerging in that there was a strong distinction on wealth in what a person would drink from, this shows that wine created its own form of a social class system. Lastly while standage talks about how slaves were used to help make spirits he says, “Over the course of four centuries, around eleven million slaves were transported from Africa to the New World, though this figure understates the full scale of the suffering because as many as half the slaves captured in the African interior died on the way to the coast.”(104). This show the inequality between blacks and whites over spirits, showing once more that drinks engendered social inequality between races.  Standage is a journaler and author from england, he and a graduate from Oxford University. Standage has a strong belief in the fact that drinks shaped history, this is present when he says, “Deprived of food, you might survive for a few weeks, but deprived of liquid refreshment you would be lucky to last more than a few days.”(1). This may lead to Standage overemphasizing the importance that drinks actually had on history. Standage living in modern times could contribute to his view on drinks because he is able to look back at the civilizations we have now and how that would be different if we didn't have that particular drink. This view would change if he was living in the Islamic Empire in 700 CE because he would have no idea cola even existed. I felt like this book changed my perspective on history, as i was able to see how big of an influence these drinks had on society and ancient civilizations that prior to reading this book i would have had no idea about. I would completely recommend this book to any AP World History student as it gives an idea and understanding of the progression and digression due to beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and cola. It shows why and how civilizations migrated and moved to different areas due to different drinks. I feel as if Standage could have done a better job at tying in relation to these drinks to today as we could see how the past drinks correlated to the present and future. Standage i feel is a very repetitive writer as many things he says are repeated over and over. I feel like this resulted into a slower paced book. But, overall this was an amazing book, i now know from beer to cola drinks changed the world.