The History of the World Economy: From alcohol for survival to caffeine for enlightenment and industry

Chelsea Follett, managing editor of HumanProgress.org, a project of the CATO Institute, explains the importance of both alcohol and caffeine to emerging cultures and developing societies.

Nature created both to kill creatures much smaller than us — plants evolved caffeine to poison insect predators, and yeasts produce ethanol to destroy competing microbes.

. . . .

As writer Tom Standage put it, “The impact of the introduction of coffee into Europe during the seventeenth century was particularly noticeable since the most common beverages of the time, even at breakfast, were weak ‘small beer’ and wine. Both were far safer than water, which was liable to be contaminated … Coffee … provided a new and safe alternative to alcoholic drinks. Those who drank coffee instead of alcohol began the day alert and stimulated, rather than relaxed and mildly inebriated, and the quality and quantity of their work improved … Western Europe began to emerge from an alcoholic haze that had lasted for centuries.”

 

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