Roderick Phillips, A Social History of Wine [The Infinite Ideas Classic Wine Library] (Infinite Ideas, forthcoming 20 Dec. 2017).
A social history of wine is a history of wine with a difference. Most histories of wine (like Hugh Johnson’s The Story of Wine, Paul Lukacs’s Inventing Wine, and Rod Phillips’s own A Short History of Wine) are chronological narratives that begin with wine in the ancient world and run through to modern times. Wine has been seen typically as the subject of broader historical trends and events how, for example, economic and diplomatic conditions favoured or interrupted the wine trade, and how changes in taste affected wine styles. A social history of wine departs from these approaches by organizing chapters by theme and by focusing much more on how wine has been positively and actively implicated in broad historical changes. It looks at the way wine has been used to demarcate social groups and genders, how wine has shaped facets of social life as diverse as medicine, religion, and military activity, how vineyards and wine cultures have transformed landscapes, and how successive innovations in wine packaging from amphoras to barrels to bottles have affected and been affected by commerce and consumption. A social history of wine neither sees the history of wine as the passive result of historical forces nor sees wine as a prime agent of historical change. Rather, it views wine as a critical actor in key trends in the histories of society, culture, and the environment. Each chapter takes a single theme and the material within each chapter is organized chronologically. Each chapter is a compact and theme-specific history of wine in its own right, enabling readers to consume chapters as self-contained units, rather than as parts of a longer narrative whole.