A World History

Written by:

Additional Formats
  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780142001615
  • 496 Pages
  • Penguin Books
  • Adult


An unlikely world history from the bestselling author of Cod and The Basque History of the World

In his fifth work of nonfiction, Mark Kurlansky turns his attention to a common household item with a long and intriguing history: salt. The only rock we eat, salt has shaped civilization from the very beginning, and its story is a glittering, often surprising part of the history of humankind. A substance so valuable it served as currency, salt has influenced the establishment of trade routes and cities, provoked and financed wars, secured empires, and inspired revolutions.  Populated by colorful characters and filled with an unending series of fascinating details, Salt is a supremely entertaining, multi-layered masterpiece.



Written by: Mark Kurlansky


Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title – winner


“Kurlansky finds the world in a grain of salt…fascination and surprise regularly erupt from the detail.” —The New York Times Book Review


This is terrific food writing; like fleur de sel, something scarce and to be savored.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Kurlansky continues to prove himself remarkably adept at taking a most unlikely candidate and telling its tale with epic grandeur. ” —Los Angeles Times Book Review

“If you are drawn to history and curious about the origins of foods, allow Mark Kurlansky to take you on an incredible journey through the centuries by way of salt.” —The Baltimore Sun

“Kurlansky does a masterful job of expanding the reader’s horizons….This book of minutely researched data and history can literally make the mouth water.” —The Boston Globe

Table of Contents

Salt: A World HistoryIntroduction: The Rock

Part One
A Discourse on Salt, Cadavers, and Pungent Sauces

Chapter One: A Mandate of Salt
Chapter Two: Fish, Fowl, and Pharoahs
Chapter Three: Saltmen Hard as Codfish
Chapter Four: Salt’s Salad Days
Chapter Five: Salting It Away in the Adriatic
Chapter Six: Two Ports and the Prosciutto in Between

Part Two
The Glow of Herring and the Scent of Conquest

Chapter Seven: Friday’s Salt
Chapter Eight: A Nordic Dream
Chapter Nine: A Well-Salted Hexagon
Chapter Ten: The Hapsburg Pickle
Chapter Eleven: The Leaving of Liverpool
Chapter Twelve: American Salt Wars
Chapter Thirteen: Salt and Independence
Chapter Fourteen: Liberté, Egalité, Tax Breaks
Chapter Fifteen: Preserving Independence
Chapter Sixteen: The War Between the Salts
Chapter Seventeen: Red Salt

Part Three
Sodium’s Perfect Marriage

Chapter Eighteen: The Odium of Sodium
Chapter Nineteen: The Mythology of Geology
Chapter Twenty: The Soil Never Sets On . . .
Chapter Twenty-One: Salt and the Great Soul
Chapter Twenty-Two: Not Looking Back
Chapter Twenty-Three: The Last Salt Days of Zigong
Chapter Twenty-Four: Ma, La, and Mao
Chapter Twenty-Five: More Salt than Fish
Chapter Twenty-Six: Big Salt, Little Salt