A History of the World in 6 Glasses Introduction-Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Tom Standage

A History Of The World In 6 Glasses

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A History of the World in 6 Glasses Introduction-Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Section 1: Beer in Mesopotamia and Egypt

Introduction Summary

In his introduction, “Vital Fluids”, Standage outlines the structure of the book and gives a brief overview of its contents. There are six sections of two chapters each, and each section deals with one of the six beverages he has chosen to represent different stages in human history: beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola. By pointing out that humans can survive far longer without food than they can without something to drink, Standage makes clear the significance of the beverages he discusses, not just to culture but to human life itself. Despite their differences, Standage notes that each of these drinks have helped to “shape human history” (1) in distinct ways.

Chapter 1 Summary

Chapter 1, “A Stone-Age Brew”, begins with a discussion of how agriculture developed around 12,000 years ago in an area known as the Fertile Crescent. Standage talks about how beer was discovered, rather than invented and it seems likely that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had come across alcohol in the form of fermented wild cereal grains or fruits before they ever settled down to farm. However, it was only when agricultural settlements became more widespread that the technology to grow and store grain provided the means for people to brew beer. Such settlements also led to the contamination of water supplies, which meant that people had to find a way to make the water safe to drink. Since “it was made using boiled water, beer was safer to drink than water” (21). While it is difficult to determine exactly when beer was first brewed deliberately, Standage notes that there “was almost certainly no beer before 10,000 BCE, but it was widespread in the Near East by 4,000 BCE” (10).

Standage discusses the different methods used by Mesopotamians and Egyptians to make beer and the efforts they made to ensure that they had the raw materials to brew beer. The significance of beer to these ancient cultures is evident in records showing that the Egyptians had at least 17 different types of beer, and the Mesopotamians had 20. Beer played an…

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