Oil of the Middle Ages: Why was table salt more valuable than gold in ancient times?


Table salt is the most common and inexpensive food additive, found in large quantities around the world. However, this was not always the case.

Until the end of the 19th century, the mineral was worth its weight in gold, was inaccessible to the majority of the population and was often the subject of bloody wars.

Salt is a vital product. Sodium chloride provides the production of gastric juice, is involved in the transmission of nerve impulses and the contraction of muscle fibers. Its deficiency provokes a lot of negative effects in the body and greatly reduces the quality of life.

The development of animal husbandry and agriculture constantly increased the need for spices. She was fed cattle, tanned leather, the mineral was used as fertilizer and against agricultural parasites.

In addition, due to the lack of refrigerators, it was necessary to somehow store meat products.

That is why salt has become the most widespread spice in the world and has been mined since ancient times. Sodium chloride was obtained by evaporation from sea water, lakes or underground sources.

Due to the laborious process and the constant lack of labor, the price of this product skyrocketed. In addition, transportation from production sites to the consumer was difficult and very expensive.

To organize the evaporation of salt, it was required to collect a huge number of workers who would pour water, keep the fire, collect the product, and then deliver it to the warehouse.

People had to be provided with food, fuel, tools and armed guards. The salt deposits attracted bandit gangs and became a place for «showdowns» with competitors. All this also increased the final cost of the product.

The monarchs, realizing that it was possible to make good money on the extraction of salt, imposed duties and excise taxes on the producers, which had to be paid to the treasury from each pound of spices sold.

Salt was a strategically important resource on which the entire economy depended

This simplified tax collection and kept the market under control. Accordingly, if the manufacturer had no competitors in the domestic market, then he could inflate prices as he pleases.

With the development of technologies that increased the scale of mining, salt prices began to fall gradually and finally collapsed after the abolition of duties at the end of the 19th century.

Salt tax in Russia

After the price fell, salt became available to the entire population. Now the purchase of spices is perceived as something insignificant and no longer causes wild delight among women on the way and black envy among neighbors.