A History of the World in 6 Glasses Chapters 7-8 Summary & Analysis

Tom Standage

A History Of The World In 6 Glasses

  • 51-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 12 chapter summaries and five sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a professional writer who specializes in literary analysis
Access Full Summary

A History of the World in 6 Glasses Chapters 7-8 Summary & Analysis

Section 4: Coffee in the Age of Reason

Chapter 7 Summary

In Section 4, Standage turns his attention from alcoholic drinks to caffeinated ones, beginning with the role of coffee during Europe’s Age of Enlightenment. By the early seventeenth century, European thinkers were beginning to challenge the principles laid down by Ancient Greek philosophers. This was made possible, in part, by the religious wars of the Protestant Reformation, which questioned the once infallible authority of the Catholic Church and opened the way for a scientific revolution. The popularity of this new, rational approach coincided with the increasing popularity of coffee.

Importantly, coffee provided an alternative to alcohol that was safe to drink and which made people more alert. During the seventeenth century, most drinks were alcoholic to some degree, whether it was weak beer or watered down wine, and coffee became the antithesis of these drinks. Like many innovations, coffee originated in the Arab world; it “seems to have first become popular in Yemen in the mid-fifteenth century” (137) where it was used in Sufi rituals. While it was non-alcoholic, and therefore permitted by Islam, coffee was not without controversy. Some Muslim scholars argued that coffee was, in fact, intoxicating, while for others, the coffeehouse represented the dangerous possibility of political dissent. That backgammon and chess were routinely played in these establishments further suggested their morally dubious character, although Islam only forbids such games if bets are placed on the outcome.

Coffee’s association with Islam might have negatively affected its reception in Europe, where it was introduced in the early seventeenth century, had Pope Clement VIII not approved its use by Christians just before his death in 1605. Coffeehouses first appeared in England during the rule of the Puritan leader, Thomas Cromwell, when they provided an alternative to taverns. After Cromwell’s death, these establishments became centers of political discussion focused around the restoration of the British Monarchy. While coffeehouses thus played a small role in the restoration, this later stood against them, when King Charles II, like the aforementioned Arab leaders, became “suspicious of the freedom of speech allowed” (144) there. His attempt…

This is just a preview. The entire section has 1335 words. Click below to download the full study guide for A History Of The World In 6 Glasses.