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197 × 120 × 17 mm
144 pages
48 illustrations, 34 in colour
01 Oct 2015
  • £11.99

  • This edition is currently unavailable

Water A Global History Ian Miller

• According to the fifth-century BC Greek philosopher Pindar, ‘the best thing is water, and the next gold’

• In 1236 Henry II granted permission for the laying of elm and lead pipes to carry water beneath the streets of London and directly into the homes of the wealthy

• On his expeditions Captain Cook procured fresh water by melting the ice that he found floating in the sea

• The most expensive bottle of water ever sold was a special-edition Fernando Altamirano bottle designed by the Italian artist Clemente Modigliani, enveloped in 24-carat gold; it cost $60,000

• Around 97 per cent of the planet’s water is unpalatable and dangerous to consume without being treated

includes a selection of recipes

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 70 per cent of its surface. But potable water has in many times and places been a scarce resource. Water traces the history of our relationship with drinking water – our attempts to find it, keep it clean and make it widely available.

From ancient times to the present, humans have tried many ways to render water palatable: boiling it for tea, distilling or brewing it as part of alcoholic beverages, or piping it from springs, bubbles and all. Ian Miller covers the histories of water treatment and supply, belief in its medicinal powers, the rising popularity of branded bottled water and much more. As access to fresh water becomes an ever more potent problem worldwide, this book is a fascinating reminder of our long engagement with this most vital fluid.

‘Lavishly illustrated with full-colour photographs on almost every page . . . [Millers] 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.’ — TLS

‘Millers volume onWateroffers 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 humanitys simplest edible product, but its also one fraught with some of the most complex politics in the present day.’ — Popmatters

‘Drawing from a variety of fascinating sources, Ian Miller skillfully argues that water was, and is, a curiosity among drinks, deceptively simple in appearance, often lauded for its health-giving properties, and sometimes feared for its potential to harm or even kill millions . . . thoroughly absorbing.’ — Carol Helstosky, author of Garlic and Oil: Food and Politics in Modern Italy and editor of The Routledge History of Food

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Ian Miller is a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at the Centre for the History of Medicine, University of Ulster, and the author of several books.

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

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Websites and Associations


Photo Acknowledgements