Salt: A World History

Salt: A World History

by Mark Kurlansky
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Overview

Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky

Homer called salt a divine substance. Plato described it as especially dear to the gods. Today we take it for granted; however, as Mark Kurlansky so brilliantly relates in this world-encompassing book, salt-the only rock we eat-has shaped civilization from the very beginning. Its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of mankind.

Until about 100 years ago, when modern geology revealed how prevalent it is, salt was one of the most sought-after commodities, for without it humans and animals could not live. Salt has often been considered so valuable that it served as currency, and it is still exchanged as such in places today. Demand for salt established the earliest trade routes, across unknown oceans and the remotest of deserts: the city of Jericho was founded almost 10,000 years ago as a salt trading center. Because of its worth, salt has provoked and financed some wars; it was, as well, a strategic element in the American Revolution and the Civil War, among other conflicts. Salt taxes secured empires across Europe and Asia and have also inspired revolution (Gandhi's salt march in 1930 began the overthrow of British rule in India); indeed, salt has been central to the age-old debate about the rights of government to tax and control economies.

The story of salt encompasses fields as disparate as engineering, religion, and food, all of which Kurlansky richly explores. Few endeavors have inspired more ingenuity than salt making, from the natural gas furnaces of ancient China to the drilling techniques that led to the age of petroleum, and salt revenues have funded some of the greatest public works in history, including the Erie Canal and the Great Wall of China. Salt's ability to preserve and to sustain life has made it a metaphorical symbol in all religions. Just as significantly, salt has shaped the history of foods like cheese, sauerkraut, olives, and more, and Kurlansky conveys, in his saga and through 40 historic recipes-how they have in turn molded civilization and eating habits the world over.

Salt: A World History is veined with colorful characters, from Li Bing, the Chinese bureaucrat who built the world's first dam in 250 BC, to Pattillo Higgins and Anthony Lucas who, ignoring the advice of geologists, drilled an east Texas salt dome in 1901 and discovered an oil reserve so large it gave birth to the age of petroleum. From the sinking salt towns of Cheshire in England to the ancient salt work in southern San Francisco Bay; from the remotest islands in the Caribbean where roads are made of salt to rural Sichaun province where the last home-made soya sauce is produced, Mark Kurlansky has produced a kaleidoscope of history, a multi-layered masterpiece that blends economic, scientific, political, religious, and culinary records into a rich and memorable tale.

Author Biography: Mark Kurlansky is the author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, The Basque History of the World, A Continent of Islands: Searching for the Caribbean Destiny, A Chosen Few: The Resurrection of European Jewry, and the recent short story collection The White Man in the Tree. Cod received a James Beard Award for Excellence in Food Writing. Mr. Kurlansky lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780676975352
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Publication date: 10/15/2002
Pages: 496
Product dimensions: 5.45(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.06(d)

About the Author

Mark Kurlansky is well-known to readers through his popular books Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, and, more recently, The Basque History of the World (both published by Walker & Company.). Salt is an appropriate bookend to these books: the story of a humble but ubiquitous substance inextricably interwoven with the history of mankind.

Hometown:

New York, NY

Date of Birth:

December 7, 1948

Place of Birth:

Hartford, CT

Education:

Butler University, B.A. in Theater, 1970

Customer Reviews

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Salt 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 120 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book! I learned a lot about history, from ancient civilizations all the way to the origins of common everyday products that we take for granted every day in the 20th and 21st centuries. Loaded with details, ancient recipes, and new revelations in practically every sentence on every page, I walk away from this book with a renewed sense of awe that civilization ever got this far. Not for the timid reader, details can be overwhelming at times, but never boring. Not if you like history and the "untold story", as I do.
booksonmynook More than 1 year ago
I liked this book. Read it within 24 hours.Unusual but very interesting history on salt
Guest More than 1 year ago
Salt: A World History By Mark Kurlansky Review By Crazy Edward. Salt, its a commodity most people just accept as something that is available in their everyday lives. Think about it, we all use salt every day, yet we don¿t realize how the fate of an empire rests on salt. Mark Kurlansky starts out by diving into ancient China and their exploitation of salt. As Kurlansky reports, the Chinese first start using salt when they found salt rocks on the ground. When it rained, a brine soaked into the area around the rock and when the sun came out, the soil produced salt crystals. This is a very interesting read for any food lover or historian. Mark Kurlansky identifies the rise and fall of civilization, and what salt has to do with them. From the ancient Romans and their salt works and fish sauces, to United States struggle to find enough salt to maintain the needs of their country, Kurlansky writes about them all. As an added bonus for all food lovers, Kurlansky publishes recipes for salt and salt-based products. If you love food, or if you just find the rise and fall of civilizations interesting, Salt: A World History is a must have. Salt. You don¿t know how much it really means until you read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Who'd -a thunk it? A book about salt being utterly engrossing? That it is. Smart and funny, full of wonderful trivia and a way of seeing world history through this most common yet complex of substances. You need not be a foodie to enjoy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kurlansky shows how Venice came to be as profitable by trading in salt rather than attempting to manufacture it, which later formed a foudation for Venice during the Renaissance. The French Monarchy did as many other empires at the time and since the trade of salt, a tax was placed upon the rock. These are but a few topics discussed in Kurlanky's Salt, but inbetween are some tasty tid-bits 'o information and surprising history as far up as the Civil war and Pickett's Charge. Although Salt tends top be of a repitive nature in expressing views, but this helps to re-convey his theories so that you will know how he wishes his 'novel' to be interpreted. Overall, I would reccomend this book to anyone with a sense of humour (it is an entire book about salt, of course) or anyone wishing to gain a new perspective in viewing world history through a common element--Sodium Chloride, the good old NaCl.
LAT72 More than 1 year ago
You'll find yourself wondering about other commodities.....like cod and coffee and beer. Did they influence people in unexpected ways?
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love salt, and have always felt like a nerd for being strangely fascinated with its history. Not only does this book include a historical aspect of the mineral, but also entails palatable facts and a very in-depth view into salt's naturally unassumed importance through the ages. I do not feel alone in saying that this is the book I have been waiting for!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I never thought I could read an entire book about SALT! However, I was immediately intrigued and after promising myself to give the first 30 pages a chance, I found myself reading the entire book. It is oftentimes funny and always educational. I have amazed my family and friends with my command of salt facts and trivia. Not recommended for those on a salt free diet.
Anonymous 6 months ago
And yet another item in our daily lives that we take for granted, that has such a rich historical impact on the evolution of mankind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Packed with informatiin bur keeps moving and keeps interest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So I have to read this book for school, and it is interesting and all, but I am honestly falling asleep as I read it and I only have one week to finish. This is going to be a long week. I guess history is not my thing. Oh well it is still interesting.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was shocked at how much I liked this book. It was actually a book that I couldn't put down. I would definitely recommend this for history lovers!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
And I thought salt was stuff you just sprinkled on your food!
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Informative but dull at points.
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