Alcohol: A History by Rod Phillips

By Rod Phillips

No matter if as wine, beer, or spirits, alcohol has had a relentless and sometimes debatable function in social existence. In his cutting edge e-book at the attitudes towards and intake of alcohol, Rod Phillips surveys a 9,000-year cultural and fiscal heritage, uncovering the tensions among alcoholic beverages as fit staples of day-by-day diets and as items of social, political, and non secular nervousness. within the city facilities of Europe and the US, the place it was once obvious as more healthy than untreated water, alcohol received a foothold because the drink of selection, however it has been extra regulated by means of governmental and non secular gurus greater than the other commodity. As a possible resource of social disruption, alcohol created risky barriers of appropriate and unacceptable intake and broke via limitations of sophistication, race, and gender.

Phillips follows the ever-changing cultural meanings of those powerful potables and makes the dazzling argument that a few societies have entered "post-alcohol" stages. His is the 1st publication to ascertain and clarify the meanings and results of alcohol in such intensity, from worldwide and long term perspectives.

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22 These different modes of drinking suggest that beer was consumed in greater volumes than wine, even though both beverages were consumed on these occasions. One reason why wine was monopolized by the wealthy and powerful in ancient societies was simple cost. It cost more to produce, and its relative scarcity raised the price further. In Mesopotamia the price of wine was inflated by the need to ship it to the towns where the elites were concentrated. Although beer was readily produced from barley grown on the plains near southern cities such as Babylon, Ur, and Lagash, wine was produced in the mountains to the northeast and then shipped downstream along the Tigris and Euphrates.

Brewing and winemaking, the processes that produced the two most common alcoholic beverages in the ancient world, seem to have followed different paths of diffusion and development. The transfer of winemaking knowledge and technology seems fairly linear, as it moved from western Asia to the eastern Mediterranean and Egypt, and from there to Crete, Greece, and southern Italy, before reaching the rest of Europe about 2,000 years ago. Winemaking knowledge seems to have reached the Etruscans of northern Italy by a different route, as they were producing wine at the same time as the Greeks, and it is possible that the Phoenicians transferred the same knowledge directly to Spain.

But many other plants and trees—though not the cereals used for brewing—go through the same annual cycle. Perhaps the spiritual associations of wine reflected all these properties. 28 All the alcoholic beverages in the ancient world had some religious connotations that might well have reflected the perceived wonder of fermentation and the feelings of other-worldliness that even mild alcoholic intoxication produces. If wine had stronger religious associations, which it did in many ancient cultures, it might well have been more because of its scarcity than of any intrinsic quality.

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