History: 6 Glasses

In this semester long project we'll examine our key course questions through a unique perspective on globalization and history through Tom Standage's book, "History of the World in Six Glasses" 

Social 10-1 Key Questions 

  • To what extent should globalization shape identity? 
  • To what extent should contemporary society respond to the legacies of historical globalization? 
  • To what extent does globalization contribute to sustainable prosperity for all people? 
  • To what extent should we embrace globalization? 

Overview of the book

Standage begins his book by noting that thirst is one of the most important parts of the human experience—without liquid, humans can’t survive more than a few days. As civilization has become more advanced, he says, humans have begun brewing more complicated, idiosyncratic drinks, instead of simply drinking water.

 Standage gets to his point right away: drinks are extremely important for human existence. He will then go on to emphasize this importance, and to use this one aspect of human life to comment on all the rest of it.

Standage maintains that by studying the history of beverages, we can understand important things about human culture. He singles out six drinks: beerwinespiritscoffee, tea, and Coca-Cola. Each one was “the defining drink during a pivotal historical period.”

 Here we find the “thesis statement’ for the entire book: Standage will examine six important beverages and, through the lens of their history and development, extrapolate conclusions about world history and culture.

 Standage briefly goes over the outline of his book. He begins with the dawn of the Agricultural Revolution, the time when humans first began converting wheat into beer—a drink so popular and important that often, workers were paid in beer. Later on, in the Mediterranean, humans began making wine from grapes. Wine became a symbol of Greek intellectual culture.

 Standage clarifies what he means when he says that we can learn about history by studying drinks. Complicated processes go into making a drink: you have to have the right resources, the right technology, the right environment. Therefore, by studying which drinks were available at which times, one is implicitly studying an era’s culture and anthropology.

1. Historical Significance.mp4

6 Glasses: Introduction