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History in the Distinguished 6 Glasses
“Gulp, gulp, gulp. Ah, so refreshing to drink this nice glass of Coca Cola.” In our daily lives, we drink one of the six glasses that formed our history: Beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea, and the most globally well known, Coca-Cola. The History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage gives an accurate account of how these glasses shaped our history by going into detail about how they gave distinction to a certain era of time.
Beer originated ten thousand years ago from fermenting cereal grains, which was the only available food source at the time, and was thus used for rations in Mesopotamia and Egypt. It provided a more reliable source of water to drink because it was boiled, killing any waterborne diseases lurking in it, which in turn, saved many lives of the inhabitants. Wine was consumed originally in ancient Greece in the first millennium BCE before spreading to the Romans.
Wine allowed the formation of many philosophies by Plato, who proposed as stated in page 63, “He (Socrates) uses wine in the pursuit of truth but remains in total control of himself and suffers no ill effects.” At the time, men were overindulging in drinking wine that Plato wanted to remind that we are not supposed to based on this given philosophy. Spirits came from Arab countries during the 13th century AD and had a higher alcohol concentration. This led to the creation of liquors such as brandy or rum which played a role in leading into the independence of of the United States in the late 1700s.
Coffee was the dominant drink of the Age of Reason, brought from Middle Eastern countries in the fifteenth century. Coffee sharpened concentration and allowed clarity of the brain since it had caffeine. Without coffee, many significant scientific developments would have never happened since this occurred in coffeehouses. Tea enforced the independence of the United States from England, which had become a global superpower thanks to tea. Tea was discovered in 2737 BCE by the emperor of China, Shen Nung. Coca-Cola was invented in the late nineteenth century in the United States by John Stith Pemberton. The intentions of Coca-Cola was to serve as a medicine but later became an artificially carbonated drink that represented the captialist ways of the US. The drink faced a lot of discrimination since the drink was spreading to communist countries which around the time, the Cold War was taking place. Coca-Cola allowed for Americans to be proud from where they are and provided comfort during the war. Thanks to these six drinks, we have the history that we have, and we have the ability to learn from why it happened these drinks and take this knowledge into the future for more growth.
Despite each of the six glasses having a profound impact on our world history, the one that affected it the least is wine. Wine, when contrasted to the other five drinks like coffee or Coca-Cola, appears less exceptional. Wine did help bring about change to politics and philosophy but it is not as considerable as the others. As stated in page 5, Coca-Cola “became America’s national drink, an emblem of the vibrant consumer captialism that helped to transform the United States into a superpower.” Wine did not contribute to an imperative superpower as that of the United States, but did indeed help the Romans distinguish themselves from the Greeks which changed the political aspect of life at that time, creating a hierarchical system of life, but it cannot compete with Coca-Cola. Coffee was a more
prominent drink than wine because it created the rise of knowledge-based ideas. According to page 4, “Coffeehouse discussions led to the establishment of scientific societies, the founding of newspapers, the establishment of financial institutions, and provided fertile ground for revolutionary thought, particularly in France.” Whereas coffee is innovating our history, wine brought forth the idea that you can change a man’s character based on how much he drinks, which was thought of by Plato. Since the achievements of wine are very insignificant to those of coffee or Coca-Cola, it does not impact world history as much in the comparison to the other two.
The glass out of the six drinks that impacted world history the most is Coca-Cola. This does not come as a surprise when one sees all the benefits it brought along with conflict as well. Coca-Cola played a major role in World War II because Coca-Cola was a symbol of America’s captialism and how it spreaded to other countries. As seen in page 255, countries like Japan or Germany who were part of the Axis powers disagreed with the consumption of Coca-Cola, especially communist countries. Japanese accounts had stated, “With Coca-Cola we imported the germs of the disease of American society.” From this statement, it is seen that American influence was undermined by the Axis powers who were enemies of the United States since it was an Allied power. Since the United States greatly impacted many countries where Coca-Cola would have spread to, even if they were Axis powers, their history would have been left a mark of Coca-Cola. Another reason why Coca-Cola impacted world history was because it globalized a single marketplace. Coca-Cola provided many financial opportunities as articulated in page 263, “By setting up factories in the developing world, for example, companies from rich countries can reduce their costs, while also creating jobs and boosting the economy in the poorer countries where they set up shop.” With increasing development and growth of numerous countries, Coca-Cola has allowed many lower developed countries to establish themselves in the market, such as Islamic countries who created their own Coca-Cola to suit their religious needs like Iraq or Saudi Arabia. That is why Coca-Cola impacted world history the most because of its role in captialism vs. communism during World War II, and how it also allowed destitute countries to prosper.
Besides drinks impacting our world history, what we eat can also contribute to our world history, even in current times. Today, the consumption of ruminant livestock, lamb and beef, have been impacting the greenhouse gas content on our planet. The majority of people on Earth consume some type of meat product, meaning we are always dependent on animals for food. However, this has led to a grave issue because animals let out carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, unlike plants which use it and convert it back to oxygen. Since the carbon dioxide in the air keeps increasing since people continue to eat it, Earth is becoming more and more polluted which has already caused contamination of the air in heavily populated areas like China. As stated in weforum.org, “Methane can contribute anything above 50% of the total for ruminant livestock.” From this statement, it is seen that if we continue to consume lamb and beef, then reducing the amount of greenhouses gases will be almost near to not happening. This problem has invoked countries like the United States to start implementing newer and cleaner sources of energy in hopes of saving our planet. However, until either the consumption of ruminant livestock decreases or a new clean energy source is found, this will continue to be a predicament and will leave a lasting impact on our world history if something goes wrong.
The History of the World in 6 Glasses has taught valuable information about how the drinks we drink in our daily lives has had a more profound impact than one thinks. From fermenting cereal grains in the form of beer, wine classifying a society into a hierarchical order, the creation of rum and whiskey thanks to spirits, coffee allowing the brains of the intellects to expand, foreign monopolies being created by tea, and Coca-Cola expanding the global market has left our world where it is. Our world would not be where it is without the existence of beer, countries like India would not be hierarchical without the creation of wine, if spirits did not exist, then rum or whiskey would not have been created which would
have slowed the process of independence for the United States, sophisticated conversations would have never started without coffee, foreign monopolies involving Britain, China, and India would have ceased if not for tea, and the global market would not have been revolutionized as much without Coca-Cola. These events are the reason why we have the superpowers we have like the United States or the United Kingdom. Tom Standage did a phenomenal job introducing these 6 drinks and turning it into world history because it brings insight that little things like what we eat or drink have done more than just provide satisfaction of hunger. It has shaped countries and provided economic opportunities that are relied on. Jobs have been created and developments have been seen across many poorer countries, improving the lives of many people. This is seen era by era and only now can we think about the possibilities of the future, thanks to Tom Standage and his informative book.
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