Tom Standage’s main thesis in setting up his book is to show how these 6 beverages play a huge role on how history has been impacted and how our world was shaped. “The six beverages highlighted in this book demonstrate the complex interplay of different civilizations and the interconnectedness of world cultures” (Standage 6). Standage makes it clear that these beverages have helped us and have shaped this world.
These fluids are vital because they have allowed us, humans, to accomplish so much in history like farming, trading, independence as well as cultural diffusion. Without some of these fluids, we would have not lived for more than a few days. “The availability of water constrained and guided humankind’s progress” (Standage 1).
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“Wine was the lifeblood of this Mediterranean civilization, and the basis of vast seaborne trade that helped to spread Greek ideas far and wide” (Standage 3). Both pieces of evidence support the idea of fluids being vital because without them our progress would have been very limited and without wine, trade would have not started when it did. The spread of greek ideas would have not happened either. Beer has influenced the transition from hunting and gathering (Paleolithic) to agricultural-based (Neolithic) societies because with the discovery of beer humans no longer hunted and gathered but instead began to cultivate and farm cereal grains as well as other crops. People began to notice that there was a surplus of food with farming and began to permanently settle in the places where they farmed. ” Although hunter-gatherers … the ability to store cereal grains began to encourage people to stay in one place” (Standage 13). ” What is clear, however, is that the rise of beer was closely associated with the domestication of the cereal grains from which it is made and the adoption of farming” (Standage 10).
This shows that beer influenced the idea of farming as well as remaining in one area since people could now store cereal grains for months or even years. The history of beer tells me that the social and gender roles in ancient Southwest Asia and Egypt were not equal at all. The treatment towards people was not equal either. Since beer was being used as a currency and measured in sila, which is roughly a liter, people would be given sila based on their social ranking. ” Junior officials were given two sila, higher officials and ladies of the court three sila, and the highest officials five sila” (Standage 35). This shows that if you were low on the social ranking you were not given much but if you were higher up then you would be given the most. Women and children would be given the least amount of sila even though they would also work at the temple which is unfair.
Beer was very important in the growth and diffusion of the earliest civilizations because without beer people would have not settled down permanently. Also with beer being used as a currency and a way to pay others it allowed the civilizations to be more organized and efficient than before. The earliest civilizations of Southwest Asia and Egypt would have not been prosperous without the discovery of beer. “This meant … they were convenient and widespread forms of payment and currency” (Standage 35).
” And beer’s association with friendly, unpretentious social interaction remains unchanged; it is a beverage that is meant to be shared” (Standage 39). Both pieces of evidence indicate that beer was so important in the growth of the earliest civilizations as well as them being prosperous. Beer brought people together and made them interact with one another. Having beer as a currency method allowed these civilizations to thrive since it allowed organization. The story of wine tells me that the social and gender roles in the Mediterranean world were not equal at all. In Nimrud, for example, people were being treated unequally.
” Ten men were allocated one qa of wine per day to share between them… Skilled workers got more, with one qa being divided between six of them” (Standage 49). This is not fair since everyone worked in the Assyrian royal household. However, everyone in the household was granted a ration. This did not last long since it began to change when Dionysus fled to Greece from Mesopotamia. “In Greece,however, Dionysus had made wine available to everyone, not just the elite” (Standage 53).
” As wine became more widely available- so widely available that even the slaves drank it” (Standage 54-55). With Dionysus’ help, wine was available to all no matter your social status. Everyone had the pleasure to drink wine.
Wine-drinking and the symposia relate to the self-image of ancient Greeks because wine-drinking would indicate how cultured you were. Also when you drank wine it would reveal how you really behaved and who you were. The symposia relate to the self-image because in the symposium the truth would be uncovered. Standage explains that “Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom; and where better to discover the truth than at a symposium, where wine does away with inhibitions to expose truths, both pleasant and unpleasant?” (62). A symposium was would usually be gatherings were discussions would happen and would possibly make the truth come out of a person. Whether it be someone’s true personality or a lie.
On the development of Christianity, wine had a positive effect. “According to the Bible, Christ’s first miracle, at the beginning of his ministry, was the transformation of six jars of water into wine at a wedding near the sea of Galilee” (Standage 85). Since Christ had this miracle it lead to wine being used in the Eucharist after the last supper where Christ stated that the bread and wine would symbolize his body and blood. However with the development of Islam it didn’t have a positive effect but instead had a negative effect. For Muslims wine was prohibited as well as any other alcoholic beverage.
” After much argument the prohibition was extended to other alcoholic drinks too. As Islam spread, so did the prohibition of alcohol” (Standage 87). The prophet Muhammad had a fight with some of his disciples with led to the prohibition of alcohol. Also Allah replied to this saying that wine and alcohol were related to Satan and with his evil so Muslims should not drink it. Spirits played a huge role in the advancement of colonialism because spirits brought wealth into the colonies and increased the population of the colonies because alcohol was more accessible here. “Its immediate significance was as a currency, for it closed the triangle linking spirits, slaves, and sugar. Rum could be used to buy slaves, with which to produce sugar, the leftovers of which could be made into rum to buy more slaves, and so on and on” (Standage 110). This shows that this drink would have not existed if it weren’t for the harsh slave trade.
Rum was beginning to be used as currency which would bring more wealth into the colonies. In the 18th century spirits changed the balance of power amongst the western European nations because it established British supremacy at sea and allowing people to travel more without getting scurvy. “And since beer contains no vitamin C, switching from beer to grog made British crews far healthier overall … Since wine contains vitamin C but eau-de-vie does not, the effect was to reduce the French navy’s resistance to scurvy, just as the British navy’s resistance was increasing” (Standage 110).
Lemon and lime juice contain a lot more vitamin C which helped the British soldiers from getting scurvy which is from a lack of vitamin C. On the other hand the French continued to drink the wine which lacked vitamin C causing them to have a higher chance of getting scurvy. This indicated that the British had more supremacy since they could resist scurvy.
With the independence movement of America, spirits played a big role because the Molasses Act made it a step for American independence. The Molasses Act led to unfair taxes and lead to more acts against the Americans in which the American colonies fought back against winning their independence. “Many Americans, not just those whose livelihoods were affected by the act, regarded it as unfair that they should have to pay taxes to a distant parliament where they had no representation” (Standage 119). This shows that Americans were very unhappy with what was occurring and did not know why they had to pay those taxes. “The Sugar Act was followed by a series of other unpopular laws, including the Stamp Act of 1765, the Townshend Acts of 1767, and the Tea Act of 1773” (Standage 120). Since the Americans were revolting against the British, the British decided to add more acts which the Americans fought back until the British surrendered in 1781 marking the independence of the American colonies.
The role that coffee played in the intellectual development of Europe was it allowed people to think more straight as well as allowing people in Europe to be more alert. In the morning Europeans would usually drink wine or beer which would make them feel relaxed and intoxicated. “Those who drank coffee instead of alcohol began the day alert and stimulated, rather than relaxed and mildly inebriated, and the quality and quantity of their work improved” (Standage 135). Everything improved from the start to the end of the day and made people more aware of their surrounding. Coffee also leads to coffeehouses which would help with business.
I do believe that coffee was the first true “global” beverage. This is because it was a beverage that everyone could drink. It wasn’t like wine which Christians were allowed to drink and Muslims were not. Everyone could consume the beverage no matter what your beliefs were. “Coffee shook off its original religious associations and became a social drink … It was embraced as a legal alternative to alcohol by many Muslims” (Standage 138). Standage goes on to explain how coffee was considered evil by stating, ” They contended that since Muslims were unable to drink wine, the holy drink of Christians, the devil had punished them with coffee instead” (141). At the beginning coffee was prohibited for Muslims because they thought that it was intoxicating. However the prohibition of coffee was soon lifted and allowed Muslims to drink it.
Coffee played a pivotal role in the Enlightenment and French Revolution because with coffee it leads to coffeehouses. In these coffeehouses people would come in to discuss and exchange ideas. In Paris, coffeehouses were where the Enlightenment thinkers would meet.
They were centers of enlightenment thought. Often ideas of the French government would be spoken in these coffeehouses. With everything being said in these coffeehouses, crowds would begin to form which caused riots. This began the French Revolution in 1789. “Ultimately, it was at Café de Foy, on the afternoon of July 12, 1789, that a young lawyer named Camille Desmoulins set the French Revolution in motion … Revolutionaries stoked fears that the army would soon descend to massacre the crowd” (Standage 170). This shows that Desmoulins was the person who set off the French Revolution and all the chaos in Paris which all happened in a coffeehouse.
Tea was important to China’s economy because it allowed China to export tea to other places that could not cultivate it like Europe. Tea increased the wealth in China. Tea affects its relationships with other countries because now other countries wanted to trade with China in order to get tea. “Trade thrived along the Silk Road and by sea with India, Japan, and Korea … China exported silk, tea, paper, and ceramics in return” (Standage 179). During the Tang dynasty China had become open to the idea of outside trade. Other countries took advantage of this since they wanted some of the tea. “Paper money had the drawback that its value diminished the farther it was taken from the imperial center, whereas tea actually increased in value in remote areas”(Standage 180). Tea had become more valuable in terms of its price during the seventh century.
The relationship between tea and the industrial revolution is that tea allowed workers in the factory to stay awake and remain focused on what they were doing. Tea also prevented workers from getting ill. “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 tedious shifts and improved their concentration when operating fast-moving machines” (Standage 200). “By the early nineteenth century doctors and statisticians agreed that the most likely cause of the improvement in the nation’s health was the popularity of tea” (Standage 201).
Tea lead to fewer deaths and helped people get through long days of work. Tea improved the nation’s health and allowed there to be fewer infant mortalities which increased the labor pool. The relationship between tea and the expansion of the British empire is tea allowed there to be more European trade. This helped the British East India company.
Later on Britain would establish control of India and Canada as well as expand even more. “This and other gifts won Charles’s favor, and he gradually granted sweeping powers to the company, including the rights to acquire territory, issue currency, maintain an army, form alliances, declare war and make peace, and dispense justice” (Standage 190). Since Charles agreed with the gifts he was offered he gave the British East India company rights to acquire territory and expand further. The British trade in tea affected America because the British brought in the tea act which taxed the Americans on tea. America did not agree with this at all. “They boycotted British goods and refused to pay tax to the government in London as a matter of principle” (Standage 204). This shows that the Americans refused to listen to the British and did not accept the act. Also because of British trade in tea the Americans dumped tea in the Boston harbor which is known as the Boston Tea Party.
The British trade in tea affected India because it allowed the Indians to get jobs. This also benefited both the British and Indians. “Proponents of the idea argued that cultivating tea in India, if it could be done, would benefit both British and Indians alike … And since the new Indian tea industry would need a lot of manpower, it would provide plenty of jobs for Indian workers” (Standage 213). This states that the people who had previously lost their jobs before would now get them back since the tea industry would require more hands-on duty. These two effects are not similar at all. These two effects on India and America are different because with America it had a negative effect since it would eventually lead to the Revolutionary War but with India it had a positive effect since it would benefit them. The story of Coca-Cola relates to the rise of capitalism and entrepreneurship in the 19th and early 20th century because John Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola, took a very big risk after being declared bankrupt in 1872.
Years later in 1884 he discovered coca which would lead to his new patent medicine. Asa Candler who took over after Pemberton’s death took a huge risk as well. “Candler had always … July 1899 he granted two businessmen, Benjamin Thomas and Joseph Whitehead, the right to bottle and sell Coca-Cola” (Standage 242).
In order to profit from the company even more Candler took a huge financial risk and allowed two other people to sell Coca-Cola as well. With the help of Thomas and Whitehead Coca-Cola was now all over the United States. This story also shows a larger economic shift because the drink could now be supplied all over the world to the soldiers in different American bases.
“Coca-Cola was also made available to civilizations near American bases overseas, many of whom developed a taste for the drink too” (Standage 253). With the U.S now being part of World War ll America send its forces out to fight. A Coca-Cola went with everyone of the soldiers. Coca-Cola became the world’s most recognized product because advertisements would promote the drink and would spread the drink. “He put up posters in streetcars and banners at soda fountains that read “Drink Coca-Cola, 5c” (Standage 239).
Frank Robinson who came up with the name Coca-Cola began to spread it by promoting it and spreading the beverage. Another way that Coca-Cola became the world’s most recognized beverage is by sending it to the American troops overseas during World War ll. “America sent its armed forces out into the world, more than sixteen million servicemen in all, and Coca-Cola went along with them” (Standage 251). With Coca-Cola sending out its beverage to its troops it allowed other people around the world to taste the beverage for the first time. A third way that Coca-Cola became the world’s most recognized product is by using Santa to promote the drink.
“It is … Coca-Cola Company was responsible for creating the modern image of Santa Claus as a bearded man in a white-trimmed red suit, choosing the colors to match its own red-and-white logo”(Standage 246). By having Santa Claus it allowed the drink to appeal to children and promoted it even more. Coca-Cola affects people’s views of the United States by showing how the United States stands by its people and how we too have a beverage just like any other country. The spread of Coca-Cola is a spread of Americanization because Coca-Cola wanted to spread things like freedom and democracy. “Coca-Cola came to be associated not just with America but with the broader Western values of freedom, democracy, and free-market capitalism” (Standage 257).
Although Standage doesn’t exactly say that it is a spread of Americanization he says it is broader than that but still pointing out some American values like a democracy.Standage’s argument in the epilogue is that although 6 beverages have shaped our world one beverage will embody the future just like it did before mankind knew about beer and other beverages. That is in fact water. “Its availability will determine the path of humankind’s future, on Earth and potentially beyond. Ironically, it is also the drink that first steered the course of human development: water. The history of drinking has come right back to its source” (Standage 266). Standage states his argument and says that it’s like a cycle since it all comes back to one source. Water has shaped our world as we know it today and will continue to shape it.
I do agree with Standage’s argument that water will be the future and will shape the world. During the Neolithic period water was very unsafe to drink since it contained lots of bacteria. “Where previous generations turned to other drinks as substitutes, it is now possible to address the problem of contamination directly, through water purification and other improvements in sanitation” (Standage 267). As the years went by people learned how to purify water and make it drinkable. Water is necessary to live and without a source of water near a civilization many people would get ill.
“Illness and death are not the only consequences of the lack of access to water; it also hinders education and economic development”(Standage 269). Water will help establish colonies in other planets like Mars where water will be necessary to grow food and have livestock. Water has shaped and influenced our world more than we know.