Wealhtheow's Reviews > Salt: A World History

Salt by Mark Kurlansky
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's review
Aug 07, 2009

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bookshelves: historical, british-history, non-fiction, food
Read in August, 2009

A fascinating study of salt throughout human history. I really appreciate that Kurlansky did not forget about the non-Western world in writing about this book (although there is rather more about American salt practices than most other countries--unsurprising, given Kurlansky's language, previous books, and nationality). My only criticism of this book is that it has a tendency toward anecdotes rather than data, especially toward the end. There are no sum-ups or final conclusions drawn in the last few chapters, just a tossed salad of all the random tidbits the author hadn't managed to fit in elsewhere.

Still, incredible stuff! Even reading just a few pages of this book will give you material for days' worth of small talk.
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Reading Progress

08/07/2009 page 33
6.82% "81BCE in China: When asked how a state should raise profits, Confucian scholar Mencius:competition for profit endangers the state&morality"
08/07/2009 page 43
8.88% "When Egyptian mummies were brought to Cairo in the 19th century, they were taxed as salted fish."
08/07/2009 page 49
10.12% "in 1352, there was a city in the western Sahara called Taghaza, which was built entirely out of salt"
08/07/2009 page 54
11.16% ""It is a sad fate for a people to be defined for posterity by their enemies." (speaking of the Celts"
08/08/2009 page 63
13.02% "Roman soldiers sometimes paid in salt:origin of "salary"; the Latin "sal" became the French "solde"(pay), which is the origin of "soldier""
08/08/2009 page 64
13.22% "Romans salted their greens, believing this to counteract the natural bitterness, which is the origin of the word "salad": salted."
08/08/2009 page 73
15.08% "Seneca: Apicus commited suicide because he spent 1/10th of his fortune on a kitchen, then realized he could not continue in such luxury"
08/08/2009 page 110
22.73% "In England until Henry VIII, the penalty for eating meat on a Friday was HANGING."
08/08/2009 page 144
29.75% "1961, speaking of the French nation, Charles de Gualle said,"Nobody can easily bring together a nation that has 265 kinds of cheese.""
08/08/2009 page 171
35.33% "Miners in Wieliczka carved an entire chapel, complete with statues&chandeliers, all out of salt, 300 feet below the surface, in a salt mine."
08/10/2009 page 181
37.4% "Anglo Saxons called a saltworks a "wich"--any place in England where the name ends in "wich" at one time produced salt."
08/10/2009 page 217
44.83% "early NewEngland settlers would leave red herring along their trail while hunting to confuse wolves--the origin of "red herring" expression"
08/10/2009 page 227
46.9% "1670, France:if you die before your day in court, your CORPSE will be salted and put on trial"
08/10/2009 page 254
52.48% "1835,US:Judge Summers complains of slaves running away from salt minds, "more uneasiness in relation to that species of property than usual""
08/14/2009 page 293
60.54% "Irish MP Burke claims Davy's gas experiments (to find new elements) promote atheism and the French Revolution"
08/14/2009 page 299
61.78% "until ~1900, bleaching was accomplished by soaking fabric in buttermilk and laying it on the ground to be whitened in sunlight for weeks" 2 comments
08/16/2009 page 371
76.65% "in Chinese folk lit, the salt smuggler is always the hero fighting corruption..the vilain is usually the Yuen Shang (elite salt farms)"
08/16/2009 page 403
83.26% "before the 1970s, the only refrigeration in Sweedon were cabinets with holes to the outdoors in the wall"
08/16/2009 page 410
84.71% "Since Edward II, the British monarch claims the right to the first sturgeon caught in UK waters every year"
08/16/2009 page 435
89.88% "Salt was first gotten by slaves, then at near-slave wages: in the 1900s, the wage for a 9 hour day was a shilling sixpence."
07/10/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Lori (new)

Lori Please keep these interesting factoid coming, I'm fascinated.

Wealhtheow Ooh, interesting Geoffrey! I know nothing about any of the periods/places he's focused on thus far, so I can't tell you how good his history/analysis is. But I'm loving the random factoids I'm getting from this book.

message 3: by Thaddeus (new) - added it

Thaddeus thees books are gay like you

Wealhtheow I dunno how light-hearted a non-fiction book about a mineral can be, but I suppose?

message 5: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Maybe the language could have been 'salty' so that could have added some fun?

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