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Six Thousand Years of Bread: Its Holy and Unholy History
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Six Thousand Years of Bread: Its Holy and Unholy History

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  151 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Yeast, water, flour, and heat. How could this simple mixture have been the cause of war and plague, celebration and victory, supernatural vision and more? In this remarkable and all-encompassing volume, H.E. Jacob takes us through 6,000 dynamic years of bread's role in politics, religion, technology, and beyond. Who were the first bakers? Why were bakers distrusted during ...more
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 1st 1997 by The Lyons Press (first published November 30th 1943)
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Mar 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing
It's not a book I necessarily recommend to anyone because it's almost like a text book. But it's the history of the world (literally) told through the lens of bread. The author describes its invention, production, religious and nutritional significance, and then spreads out to show how it sparked and shaped agriculture, engineering, wars, policy, commerce, and still dictates the balance of world power. History is only recently becoming a favorite subject of mine. But the way this book links econ ...more
Feb 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: ebooks
Jacobs takes us on an odyssey of Bread, its impact on human cultures and religions through the age. He writes, not as an anthropologist or an archaeologist, but like a 19th century author, steeped in the classics. We are taken into the minds of those who first discovered that if flour and water stand long enough, it bubbles and rises. Yeast is formed by microbes, but Jacobs never gets that scientific, nor should he. He tells the story of bread through the stories of pagan religions, including th ...more
Jan 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing

Best read while eating hot, fresh, homemade bread.

The writing style is very dated - very Victorian, which, to be fair, H.E. Jacob was. Although, it’s hard to take seriously as a book of history at first when the opening section reads like a tale from Just So Stories, as the hypothetical family of first humans discover agricultural, with everyone playing their roles along antiquated gender lines.

The book makes a good argument that grains and breads were the founding cornerstone of many of the wor
Nov 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
trabalho apenas minado por circunstâncias bélicas (segunda guerra do mundo) e pela medíocridade dos tempos modernos - qualquer livro que caminhe com a história pela trela, torna-se quase insuportável à medida que se aproxima deste presente em que tu e eu existimos.

o senhor Jacob também se perde um pouco, inevitavelmente, na tarefa descomunal em que se meteu - mas isto funciona mais como testemunha da enormidade da tarefa do que como crítica negativa.

verdade seja dita, o senhor Jacob tem um dom p
Aug 09, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: history buff bakers
A Western Civ class from the perspective of bread. (Not anthropomorphized, talking bread, but a bread centered historical narrative by a Jewish emigre to New York city during WWII) Idiosyncratic. Not sure I trust his archaeology/anthropology--just a gut feeling. But interesting. It's one of those books I got to about 70 pages from the end and then was just like, eh, I'm done. ...more
Oct 29, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Really like 3.5. Can be very dry at times but overall decent read.
Marcus Kazmierczak
This was not quite the book I was looking for, the book's focus is more on history than bread. There isn't a cohesive flow between all the pieces of history highlighted. Grain and bread is loosely the connecting piece but feels like it is missing a general idea for the book besides times in history bread and grain are mentioned.

I'm tempted to give it 3 stars because there is interesting information about different regions of the world and their different types of grain. Plus the later chapters o
Melissa Helton
Dec 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
It's marked as a "cook's classic library" book but that is doing a disservice to this book. This is a book about religion, power, economies, revolutions, wars, empires, science, exploitation, and freedom. I can see this book being a text for many, many types of classrooms. The book took 20 years to write and cites hundreds of sources and the text has an interesting history itself-- his wife hid the manuscript while the author was in a Nazi concentration camp. Dense read. Very intense. ...more
Nick Fassler
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
A history of the (mostly Western) world, told through the lens of bread, grains, and agriculture. I was hoping for more of a history of bread.

Overall, a bit dense and dry, but still interesting. I could have done without the roughly 50 pages on the Christian interpretation of bread as the actual body of Jesus versus just a metaphor.
Kristopher Aadahl
Nov 18, 2020 rated it did not like it
Firstly, this is NOT a history of bread: it's a telling of classical world history loosely through wheat. It is a historical perspective which is outdated and with unreliable information. This work seems to be a production of the author's haughty self-pleasure. ...more
Jan 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Bakers, people who like history, agrarians, people who like bread
This was a great book! It really is amazing what you can learn about history and how cultures either changed or survived based on their treatment of bread. Or how wars have been won and lost because of bread. It's interesting to learn how much religious significance has been given to bread in all religions, and i like how when he speaks of the religions he does so in a matter-of-fact way that does not denigrate any one religion, nor does it exalt one religion. It also treats the deities of the r ...more
Marty Manjak
Apr 29, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Social Scientists, Bakers
The subtitle of this book is "Its Holy and Unholy History." And indeed, it turns out that bread plays a critical role in the story of many religions, not the least of which is Christianity.

In fact, it was in bread, that humble staple which for so many symbolized survival, that the contentious issue of transubstantiation was focused, resulting in the religious wars that ravaged Europe.

It seems that there is nothing that humankind will not use as a pretext for slaughtering. It may surprise peopl
Jim Puskas
A fascinating excursion into the long and very complex relationship of mankind with bread -- or in a greater context, the cultivation, processing and consumption of grain. Most intriguing to me was Jacobs' exploration of the cultural and religious implications of the choices people have made: which grain to use for different purposes; the implications of leavened bread as opposed to flatbread; the significance of nomadic versus settled lifestyles; the social status accorded to bakers in differen ...more
Jennifer Heise
Dec 09, 2014 rated it liked it
A fascinating text, apparently written while the author was in hiding during WWII. It suffers a bit from the lack of access to research resources, and harkens back to 19th century histories of domestic science. But still, a valuable piece full of nuggest of information, despite the datedness of its opinions and the near-century of research that has come since then... (The praise of commercial bread as more sanitary and also less work for everyone will tweak the nose of the home bread making enth ...more
Mar 17, 2014 rated it liked it
A history book that happens to be written in a time I'd consider to be a part of history. So for those interested in that sort of thing, there is twofold value to this book: a comprehensive discussion of the historical, religious, anthropological and societal importance of bread but also a peak into how a Victorian mind interprets things out of the past. I admit, reading the world "Mohammedan" used earnestly was a bit of a mind-blower.
B. Rule
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
A really great read. It's written in a sort of 19th century literary-historical style, but addresses the role of bread up to and including World War II. The last two paragraphs are really harrowing and show why the author would be so obsessed with bread as to write such a thorough, lyrical history of its role in human life and history. It's not a perfect book, but I would give this 4.5 stars. ...more
Feb 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Reading this book took a while, never expected it would be so intense. This was like taking a university history course. It is so detailer, the author said he used 40,00o sources! And to think he went on to write something like 40 other books, it´s mind boggling how some people can achieve so much in a life time.
Feb 12, 2008 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
My brother bought this for me and I feel a gauntlet has been thrown. I WILL read it. But you should know (when reading any non fiction review by me) that I do not really read much non fiction and never is it the only book I am reading. In other words, my thoughts on this book will come piecemeal, over a large span of time!
Sep 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011-project
Written in German in 1944 by an escaped Jewish scholar, the first half jumped around a little, which made it a little difficult to read. It was however really interesting, covering the role of bread in society, religion, war, and science.
May 24, 2007 marked it as to-read
I started this in Jan 06, and then gave up during jury duty the following month. I'd like to start over soon. ...more
Apr 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
Not a great cohesive whole... but so many awesome little tidbits. Easily worth a read.
Sep 09, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
very old school writing from an old world renaissance guy who quotes plutarch and ibsen at the drop of a hat.
very few people are that well read nowadays
Eric Hines
Sep 26, 2009 marked it as to-read
Shelves: food, cooking
food & cooking
Aug 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Six Thousand Years of Bread -- a history of the world that follows the triumphs and tragedies of the human experience in field and kitchen.
Alice Verberne
Jan 17, 2011 rated it liked it
Makes the reader think about how a simple staple food changed the world
Aug 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was a delight. I read it slowly to prolong the enjoyment. Politics, economics, warfare, religion, all vastly influenced by bread.
Nov 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
A definitive history of wheat & bread from ancient Egypt to modern America. Excellent history.
Lisa Rose
rated it it was amazing
May 06, 2020
George Pollard
rated it really liked it
Feb 08, 2020
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Jun 02, 2010
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a German and American journalist and author. Born to a Jewish family in Berlin and raised partly in Vienna, Jacob worked for two decades as a journalist and biographer before the rise to power of the Nazi Party. Interned in the late 1930s in the concentration camps at Dachau and then Buchenwald,[1] he was released through the efforts of his future wife Dora, and emigrated to the United States. The

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