A World History

Publisher: Vintage Canada
From the award-winning and bestselling author of Cod comes the dramatic, human story of a simple substance, an element almost as vital as water, that has created fortunes, provoked revolutions, directed economies and enlivened our recipes.

Salt is common, easy to obtain and inexpensive. It is the stuff of kitchens and cooking. Yet trade routes were established, alliances built and empires secured – all for something that filled the oceans, bubbled up from springs, formed crusts in lake beds, and thickly veined a large part of the Earth’s rock fairly close to the surface. From pre-history until just a century ago – when the mysteries of salt were revealed by modern chemistry and geology – no one knew that salt was virtually everywhere. Accordingly, it was one of the most sought-after commodities in human history. Even today, salt is a major industry. Canada, Kurlansky tells us, is the world’s sixth largest salt producer, with salt works in Ontario playing a major role in satisfying the Americans’ insatiable demand.

As he did in his highly acclaimed Cod, Mark Kurlansky once again illuminates the big picture by focusing on one seemingly modest detail. In the process, the world is revealed as never before.

From the Hardcover edition.



A Mandate of Salt

Once I stood on the bank of a rice paddy in rural Sichuan Province, and a lean and aging Chinese peasant, wearing a faded forty-year-old blue jacket issued by the Mao government in the early years of the Revolution, stood knee deep in water and apropos of absolutely...
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"Kurlansky continues to prove himself remarkably adept at taking a most unlikely candidate and telling its tale with epic grandeur. Salt: A World History reveals all the hidden drama of its seemingly pedestrian subject…. an immensely entertaining read.” -- Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Stylishly written and wonderfully learned … William Blake famously suggested that the world was to be seen in a grain of sand; Kurlansky has seen it in a grain of salt.” -- The Observer

"Mark Kurlansky’s almost 500-page opus on earth’s only edible rock is the stuff of which epics are born…." -- Zsuzsi Gartner, The Globe and Mail, Saturday, January 26, 2002

"In Salt, Mark Kurlansky, who charmed readers with an entertaining volume on the codfish, turns to a chemical that is essential to human life….darned interesting…. Kurlansky gives us entertainment…. At its best, this is a "wow!" book: roving, startling, engaging." -- Sidney W. Mintz, The Washington Post, Sunday, January 27, 2002

“Only Mark Kurlansky, winner of the James Beard Award for Excellence in Food Writing for Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, could woo readers toward such an off-beat topic of Salt: A World History...Throughout his engaging, well-researched history, Kurlansky sprinkles witty asides and amusing anecdotes. A piquant blend of the historic, political, commercial, scientific and culinary, the book is sure to entertain as well as educate.” -- PW Daily, Friday, Nov. 16