Importance of Water

Thirst is deadlier than hunger. Without food you can live a few weeks but without a drink you will be lucky to survive a few days. When storing water was not possible, communities had to stay near springs and rivers for full time supply of water.  In his book History of the World in Six Glasses Tom Standage highlights six drinks, their functions and their history and how it is still in use. Standage shows that beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca Cola shaped history and they are still used history has continued to involve, different drinks have come to eminence  at different times. They all met a particular need in society and has some history that come with it. Drinks have continued to shape the history of mankind throughout the years to today’s world. This article will focus of Standage’s book and how it has remained relevant in today’s society.

The early civilization made beer from wheat and barley. It was first made in Fertile Crescent and it became very important in Mesopotamia and Egypt because it was used to pay the bills and wages. Beer was associated with the birth of civilization. With periods of contaminated water beer became the safer drink among the people of Egypt.  Everybody enjoyed beer despite the social class that you were in because it was made whenever one wanted to consume it.   The Egyptians drank beer while they build the pyramids. This showed that beer was drank by the working hours which is still true today. Beer has always been the drink of the working man from the dawn of civilization to today.

Wine is seen as more difficult to produce, transport and preserve. It was drunk by more refined people. Wine portrayed power, prestige and class.  In today’s world it is still drunk by refined people. Wine became the main export in ancient Greece which helped in spreading the Greek culture abroad. In the Greek culture wine accompanied highbrow discussions in topics like literature and philosophy. Wine has always been associated with art and also academics. It was used to differentiate different classes while the higher classes drunk higher quality wine the lower class drunk wine of lesser quality. Wine drinking showed a difference in classes and it was drunk when intellectual discussions were taking place. The pursuit for quality is what led to economic expansion and it later drove the cultural expansion.

Spirits were used for economic and medicinal purposes. Spirits like rum were more important to colonialists during their fight for independence. It fueled the age of exploration because it fueled the long journeys for the sailors. Rum was made a compulsory drink for sailors in the 18th century. The mixture of rum, water and lime juice improved its taste and at the same time prevented illnesses and scurvy.  Rum was also used as one of the currencies in slave trade. Standage states that rum was the first globalized drink of oppression. It led to a lot of protests and trade wars. It played a very crucial role in the triangular trade between Britain, Africa and North America. Through the drink spirits, the modern world is able to understand exploration, Arab technology, revolutions and trade relationships.

Coffee originated in the Arab world and was used to inspire scientific and political revolutions in Europe. Coffee was used in trading activities and sometimes as a replacement for alcohol. Coffee was served in coffee houses where most of the debates and social talks took place. People learned about the current happenings and events in the coffee houses. After the discussions in the coffeehouse some people were able to come up with scientific advancements from those discussions. Political ideas were also spread in the same houses. It is therefore important to note that coffee brings about new ideas and sharpens minds. To this days ideas are still spread through coffee dates. In meetings people are served coffee as they continue with their meetings.  It was used as alcohol of pleasure and it has carried those roles into present day.

Tea became a staple drink in china in the 3rd century. Tea played an important role in expansion of the imperial and Industrial British Empire. The Industrial Revolution saw a lot of factories, introduced. People were served tea in these factories which kept them alert and prevented them from any illness. It was a drink of pleasure and as a water purifier. Tea contributed to the advancement of culture by advancing industrialization in modern-day nations as well as increasing international trade.

Coca-Cola is termed as the symbol of globalization and commercialization. It is now known internationally as a drink that brought about civilization and advancement. It has become one of the most valuable drinks that is known to mankind all over the world.  It brought about things about the American Culture like liberty with it. Coca cola represents the capitalist ideas that came to birth with the emergence of America as superpower.

All the drinks that are discussed in the book are still consumed today. The beverages have been used to tell a tale about the civilization and how it took place.  Standage argues that each drink is a form of disruptive technology. They act as a catalyst of cultures which demonstrates the complex relationships of different cultures. Reading the book one can easily understand why some drinks are considered better than others. There were drinks for different social classes.

In my opinion the book is fun to read. When the book is fun it becomes easier to understand the message that is being passed across. The book brings about important point about the history of the drinks and how they shaped the culture of different people and countries. The drinks had a huge significance in the shaping of history. It is still relevant today because it guides today’s generation on how their history. It is tea that led to the rise of the Great Britain, it is the wine that led to the spread of the Greek culture and Coca Cola brought about civilization. Without these drinks it would probably be impossible to have the history and culture that we have today. The book remains relevant today to anyone who is interested in knowing the history of different cultures.


Standage T. (2005) A History of the World in Six Classes Walker & Company

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