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Listen to the story “Salt in World History” by W. H. McNeill

Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History

My daughter Rachel, who works at Berkshire Publishing, is a great fan of audio books and has been pushing me for ages to develop some audio content. I’m thinking first of an audio version of our short bestseller This Fleeting World but it occurred to me that many of our historical articles and biographies might make wonderful audio “singles” or podcasts.

Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History, Second EditionHere’s a sample, narrated by Gail Shahan, for your enjoyment: “Salt in World History” by W. H. McNeill. Please tell us what you think by commenting below or by taking a short poll!

I chose “Salt” because it’s an intriguing story, written by a famous historian, and because the original article was included in Berkshire’s Encyclopedia of World History thanks to Rachel herself. She was a quiet little girl and used to come with me to visit William H. (Bill) McNeill at his home in Colebrook, Connecticut. One winter afternoon we were talking and Rachel was sitting on the hearth, poking at the fire and reading a book. Bill started talking about salt and told me about, amongst other things, the taxation of salt during the Tang dynasty. Only on the way home did I discover that she had stopped reading and instead been absorbed by the story you will hear now.

Did you know, for example, that, “Salt manufacture and distribution became a major source of tax income for the Chinese government and helped to sustain China’s political cohesion across subsequent centuries. The scale and technical efficiency of salt mining in Szechwan was unmatched elsewhere. Indeed it should be recognized as the largest industrial complex on Earth before steam engines permitted the rise of Manchester and Birmingham in England after 1780”?

Thanks for listening!

3 thoughts on “Listen to the story “Salt in World History” by W. H. McNeill

  1. What a great idea to do audio recordings of the articles! I loved this one. I’ll certainly direct my global history students to it when I teach the course next year. There was only one error: the Taiping Rebellion ended in 1864, not 1964.

  2. I love this. I prefer historical segments of about this length. I tend not to listen to complete audio books, but I would share (and even assign) content like this with my students.

  3. […] on warfare and technology in different parts of the world, and his wonderful essays on salt (listen to a reading of “Salt” by clicking here) and the global influence of ancient […]

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