A History of the World in 6 Glasses Symbols and Motifs

Tom Standage

A History Of The World In 6 Glasses

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A History of the World in 6 Glasses Symbols and Motifs

Drinking vessels

Standage suggests that one of the reasons wine production developed later than the deliberate production of beer was that pottery was not invented until around 6000 BCE. Thus the vessels available to store particular beverages were an important factor in their development.

In Mesopotamia and Greece, drinks were served from a communal vessel, while in Rome, individual bottles of wine were used to serve people according to their status. In this way, the manner of serving a drink could reflect the broader ethos of a society.

When tea was first imported to Britain in the eighteenth century, it was accompanied by teacups made of Chinese porcelain. This suggests that it was the ritual element of the tea ceremony, as much as the beverage itself, which appealed to the British. The establishment of a crockery industry in Britain put a stop to these imports by 1791, at which point tea’s place in British society was already assured. The use of British, rather than Chinese, crockery suggests that people had come to see tea as something British, rather than something exotic.

Despite Asa Candler’s initial reluctance to bottle the finished product, the distinctive Coca-Cola bottle, introduced in 1916, helped to make the drink more widely available and more recognizable. Today, bottles of water have replaced Coca-Cola as the most fashionable drink in the Western world, despite access to clean tap water. Bottling water highlights its status as a precious commodity, for which we are willing to pay. Packaging water into bottles rather than relying on the communal supply, also suggests that the values of individual rights and freedoms, promoted by brands like Coca-Cola, have been prioritized over the desire for social good.

Medicine

Each of the drinks discussed in this book have been considered or promoted as medicine at some point in history. In part, this could be due to the fact that humans require liquid to survive. As Standage notes in his introduction, thirst will kill a person much quicker than hunger will. Any substance that helps to keep us alive and healthy is bound to be considered a necessary part of medicine….

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