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Salt : A World History

By (author) Mark Kurlansky

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Homer called it a divine substance. Plato described it as especially dear to the gods. As Mark Kurlansky so brilliantly relates here, salt has shaped civilisation from the beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of mankind. Wars have been fought over salt and, while salt taxes secured empires across Europe and Asia, they have also inspired revolution - Gandhi's salt march in 1930 began the overthrow of British rule in India. From the rural Sichuan province where the last home-made soya sauce is produced to the Cheshire brine springs that supplied salt around the globe, Mark Kurlansky has produced a kaleidoscope of world history, a multi-layered masterpiece that blends political, commercial, scientific, religious and culinary records into a rich and memorable tale.

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  • Paperback | 496 pages
  • 130 x 194 x 38mm | 458.13g
  • 01 Feb 2010
  • VINTAGE
  • London
  • English
  • 0099281996
  • 9780099281993
  • 14,686

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Author Information

Mark Kurlansky is the author of 23 books of fiction, nonfiction, children's writing. His best-selling Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World won the 1999 James Beard Award for Food Writing and the 1999 Glenfiddich Award. His other works include: Salt, The Basque History of the World and the short story collection The White Man in the Tree. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.

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Review quote

Homer called it a divine substance. Plato described it as especially dear to the gods. As Mark Kurlansky so brilliantly relates here, salt has shaped civilisation from the beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of mankind. Wars have been fought over salt and, while salt taxes secured empires across Europe and Asia, they have also inspired revolution - Gandhi's salt march in 1930 began the overthrow of British rule in India. From the rural Sichuan province where the last home-made soya sauce is produced to the Cheshire brine springs that supplied salt around the globe, Mark Kurlansky has produced a kaleidoscope of world history, a multi-layered masterpiece that blends political, commercial, scientific, religious and culinary records into a rich and memorable tale.

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Review text

This book has as its subtitle 'A World History', and if that seems a rather grandiloquent claim, read on! Kurlansky needs no special pleading to convince even the most sceptical of readers that the progress of human civilization, from China, Egypt and Rome to today can be understood in terms of the importance of salt. It has dominated economics for millenia, wars have been fought over its control, expeditions have prospected for it, inventors, many anonymous, have laboured with loving ingenuity to find out how best to harvest it, entrepreneurs have spent fortunes seeking how to make most profit from it, lives have been sacrificed to it, it has occasioned rebellions and brought about lasting social change. Perhaps its significance was best summed up in the sixth century by Cassiodorus who said: 'There may be someone who does not seek gold, but there never yet lived a man who does not desire salt.' Apart from its savour, it is a substance that the body actually needs, though how much is one of the mysteries that still remain unexplained. Kurlansky concentrates on sodium chloride - table salt, that happy example of yin/yang, when an acid and a base combine - although he discusses other salts too in passing, and one of the charms of this book is the succession of alluring recipes. In some the appeal is purely local or historical: few would enjoy the Romans' beloved garum or the Chinese delicacy of salted stomach of frog. All in all there is no end to the fascination of this book, though I shall not claim that no kitchen should be without it. Review by Sister Wendy Beckett (Kirkus UK)

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