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Distributed for Reaktion Books


A Global History

Other than air, the only substance more vital to life is water. Our bodies brim with it, and if we’re deprived of it for even a few days, the results can be fatal. Our planet, too, is mostly water, with oceans across approximately seventy percent of its surface. But potable water has in many times and places been a scarce resource, and with Water, Ian Miller traces the history of our relationship with drinking water—our attempts to find it, keep it clean, and make it widely available.
Miller’s history ranges widely, from ancient times to the present, exploring all the many ways that we’ve rendered water palatable—from boiling it for tea or distilling it as part of alcoholic beverages to piping it from springs, bubbles and all. He covers the histories of water treatment and supply, belief in its medicinal powers, and much more, all supported by fascinating historical illustrations. As access to fresh water becomes an ever more potent problem worldwide, Miller’s book is a fascinating reminder of our long engagement with this most vital fluid.

224 pages | 40 color plates, 20 halftones | 5 4/5 x 8 1/4 | © 2015


Food and Gastronomy

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“Miller’s main theme is the history of attempts to resolve the tension between veneration of water as pure, cleansing, and healthful, and fear of it as contaminated and dangerous. A second theme is how water, which has no smell or taste, became interesting. People in Western societies had to be told to consume this boring drink, thereby creating a market for more appealing beverages with added nutrients, carbonation, sugars, and flavours.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Miller’s volume on Water offers a different sort of history. He explores the role of an easily defined substance—‘a tasteless mixture of oxygen and hydrogen atoms that are chemically bonded together’—across the millennia, from the Incas and ancient Egyptians to the present day. . . . Miller devotes a chapter to water-lovers’ efforts to make an otherwise bland drink more interesting, from 18th-century German ‘butter water’, to the invention of carbonated water, to the mass marketization of lemonade. He also explores the commercialization of bottled water, and current concerns around the global struggle for access to clean, safe drinking water. Water may be humanity’s simplest edible product, but it’s also one fraught with some of the most complex politics in the present day.”

Hans Rollman | PopMatters

Table of Contents

1. What is Water?
2. Water Falls in and out of Fashion
3. What is in Water?
4. Water and Healthy Bodies
5. Making Water Safe
6. Alcohol or Water?
7. Marketing Drinking Water
8. Making Water Interesting
9. Global Access to Drinking Water
Mineral Water Brands
Select Bibliography
Websites and Associations
Photo Acknowledgements

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