The politics of alcohol

A history of the drink question in England

By James Nicholls

The politics of alcohol


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8637-3
  • Pages: 288
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: August 2011
  • BIC Category: PSYCHOLOGY / Psychopathology / Addiction, HISTORY / Modern / 16th Century, Illness & Addiction: Social Aspects, Humanities / Social & cultural history, History, Modern History, Cultural Studies, General & world history, Cultural studies, 16th century, c 1500 to c 1599


Questions about drink - how it is used, how it should be regulated and the social risks it presents - have been a source of sustained and heated dispute in recent years. In The politics of alcohol, newly available in paperback, Nicholls puts these concerns in historical context by providing a detailed and extensive survey of public debates on alcohol from the introduction of licensing in the mid-sixteenth century through to recent controversies over 24-hour licensing, binge drinking and the cheap sale of alcohol in supermarkets. In doing so, he shows that concerns over drinking have always been tied to broader questions about national identity, individual freedom and the relationship between government and the market. He argues that in order to properly understand the cultural status of alcohol we need to consider what attitudes to drinking tell us about the principles that underpin our modern, liberal society.

The politics of alcohol presents a wide-ranging, accessible and critically illuminating guide to the social, political and cultural history of alcohol in England. Covering areas including law, public policy, medical thought, media representations and political philosophy, it will provide essential reading for anyone interested in either the history of alcohol consumption, alcohol policy or the complex social questions posed by drinking today.


This is an exciting account of how public, professional and political discourses on alcohol reveal underlying tensions around fundamental questions of individual freedom, the control of free markets, the relationship between the state and industry, and the cultural and political attitudes which have helped to shape alcohol policy across the centuries. The book successfully traces common themes through different historical periods to the present time as well as identifying key changes in the politics of alcohol'.
Dr Betsy Thom, Head of Social Policy Research Centre; Reader in Drug and Alcohol Studies at Middlesex University and Co-ordinating editor of the journal *Drugs: education, prevention and policy*

This introductory conceptualisation of his subject is constantly referred back to as the reader progresses through the chronological chapters and serves to give shape and meaning to a considerable amount of information.

... Nicholls has succeeded in producing an accessible introduction to the drink question in all its complexity.

All in all, it can be said that the book delivers what the title promises - a comprehensive compilation of information about the politicization of the issue of alcohol treated subjects in England.


1. A monstrous plant: acohol and the Reformation
2. Healths, toasts and pledges: political drinking in the seventeenth century
3. A new kind of drunkenness: the gin craze
4. The politics of sobriety: coffee and politics in Georgian England
5. A fascinating poison: early medical writing on drink
6. Ungovernable passions: intoxication and Romanticism
7. Odious monopolies: power, control and the 1830 Beer Act
8. The last tyrant: the rise of temperance
9. A monstrous theory: the politics of prohibition
10. The state and the trade: the drink question at the turn of the century
10. Central control: war and nationalisation
11. The study of inebriety: medicine and the law
12. The pub and the people: drinking places and popular culture
13. Prevention and health: alcohol and public health
14. Beer orders: the changing landscape in the 1990s
15. Drinking responsibly: media, government and binge drinking
Conclusion: the drink question today


James Nicholls is a Research Manager at Alcohol Research UK

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