A Brief Animated History of Alcohol

Almost any­thing can be pre­served in alco­hol, except health, hap­pi­ness and mon­ey…

Rod­er­ick Phillips’ Ted-Ed les­son, a Brief His­to­ry of Alco­hol, above, opens with a bon mot from ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry quote maven Mary Wil­son Lit­tle, after which, an unwit­ting chim­panzee quick­ly dis­cov­ers the intox­i­cat­ing effects of over­ripe plums.

His eyes pin­wheel, he falls off a branch, and grins, drunk as a monkey’s uncle.

And though the sub­ject is alco­hol, this pri­mate is the only char­ac­ter in Anton Bogaty’s 5‑minute ani­ma­tion who could be hauled in on a drunk and dis­or­der­ly charge.

The oth­ers take a more sober, indus­tri­ous approach, illus­trat­ing alcohol’s promi­nent role in ear­ly med­i­cine, reli­gious rit­u­als, and glob­al trad­ing.

Ancient Egyp­tians har­vest the cere­al grains that will pro­duce beer, includ­ed as part of work­ers’ rations and avail­able to all class­es.

A native of South Amer­i­ca stirs a ket­tle of chicha, a fist­ful of hal­lu­cino­genic herbs held at the ready.

A Greek physi­cian tends to a patient with a gob­let of wine, as a near­by poet pre­pares to deliv­er an ode on its cre­ative prop­er­ties.

Stu­dents with an inter­est in the sci­ence of alco­hol can learn a bit about the fer­men­ta­tion process and how the inven­tion of dis­til­la­tion allowed for much stronger spir­its.

Alco­hol was a wel­come pres­ence aboard sea­far­ing ves­sels. Not only did this valu­able trad­ing com­mod­i­ty spark live­ly par­ties on deck, it san­i­tized the sailors’ drink­ing water, mak­ing longer voy­ages pos­si­ble.

Cheers to that.

Edu­ca­tors can cus­tomize the les­son here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Beer Archae­ol­o­gy: Yes, It’s a Thing

5,000-Year-Old Chi­nese Beer Recipe Gets Recre­at­ed by Stan­ford Stu­dents

How Carl Jung Inspired the Cre­ation of Alco­holics Anony­mous

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in NYC tongight, Mon­day, Jan­u­ary 6 when her month­ly book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain cel­e­brates Cape-Cod­di­ties (1920) by Roger Liv­ingston Scaife. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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