51 pages 1 hour read

Mark Kurlansky

Salt: A World History

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2002

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Key Figures


Salt itself is the main character of the book. Because the story is largely a history of economies and empires, and also a massive survey of thousands of years, Kurlansky does not devote much space to specific individuals. When he does write about specific characters, he focuses on individuals who made contributions that altered the course of salt, salt production, or the influence that salt had on a specific society.

Salt can be perceived in a number of ways: as a protagonist, a villain, a tempter, a treasure, a curse, an indulgence, and more. In Kurlansky’s view, most people have never given much thought to salt beyond its use as a condiment or a deicer. But it has more uses than that, with “the figure often cited by the salt industry [as] 14,000, including the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, making soap, [and] softening water” (5). Over the course of Kurlansky’s investigation, it becomes apparent that there are surprisingly few fields of scientific or economic study that have not been influenced by salt. 

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Gandhi enters the story as a figure of resistance. He had been preaching the need for Indian independence from the British for some time before he became involved with the salt revolution.

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By Mark Kurlansky