Synopses & Reviews
Ian Williams describes in captivating detail how Rum and the molasses that it was made from was to the 18th century what oil is today. Rum was used by the colonists to clear Native American tribes and to buy slaves. To make it, they regularly traded with the enemy French during the Seven Years' War, angering their British masters and setting themselves on the road to Revolution. The regular flow of rum was essential to keeping both armies in the field since soldiers relied on rum to keep up their fighting spirits. Even though the Puritans themselves were fond of rum in quantities that would appall modern day doctors, temperance and Prohibition have obscured the historical role of the "Global Spirit with its warm heart in the Caribbean." Ian Williams' book triumphantly restores rum's rightful place in history, taking us across space and time, from its origins in the plantations of Barbados through Puritan and Revolutionary New England, to voodoo rites in modern Haiti, where to mix rum with Coke risks invoking the wrath of the god, and across the Florida straits where Fidel and the Bacardi family are still fighting over the rights for the ingredients of Cuba Libre.
Rum arguably shaped the modern world. It was to the eighteenth century what oil is to the present, but its significance has been diminished by a misguided sense of old-fashioned morality dating back to Prohibition. In fact, Rum shows that even the Puritans took a shot now and then. Rum, too, was one of the major engines of the American Revolution, a fact often missing from histories of the era. Ian Williams's book -- as biting and multilayered as the drink itself -- triumphantly restores rum's rightful place in history, taking us across space and time, from the slave plantations of seventeenth-century Barbados (the undisputed birthplace of rum) through Puritan and revolutionary New England, to voodoo rites in modern Haiti, where to mix rum with Coke risks invoking the wrath of the gods. He also depicts the showdown between the Bacardi family and Fidel Castro over the control of the lucrative rights to the Havana Club label. Telling photographs are also featured in this barnstorming history of the real "Spirit of 1776."
About the Author
Ian Williams is The Nation magazine's UN Correspondent and the author of DESERTER: George Bush's War on Military Families, Veterans and His Own Past. Since becoming interested in rum he has amassed a collection of "rumabilia;" books, pamphlets, prints, advertising ephemera, bottles and decanters, hundreds of rum labels from all over the world, and not least, a growing collection of rum, from Croatia to Thailand, from Kazakhstan to India, from Hawaii to Argentina. Williams lives in New York City.