Drinking in Victorian and Edwardian Britain: Beyond the Spectre of the Drunkard

Thora Hands

Research output: Book/ReportBook

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The Victorians liked to drink and they lived in a society geared towards alcohol consumption. In the great industrial cities of Britain, there was almost no escaping the beer houses; gin palaces; refreshment rooms; restaurants; theatres; music halls; vaults; dram shops; oyster bars; private clubs and public houses that served a dizzying array of alcoholic drinks to suit people from all walks of life. Drinking went on from dawn till dusk and on into the wee small hours so we know that many people liked to drink. Yet we know very little about their reasons for doing so because the issue of drunkenness has cast a long shadow over the majority of alcohol consumers. In reframing drink and the Victorians, this book looks deeper than the problems of alcohol, to investigate the reasons why people drank it in the first place. It picks up where Brian Harrison’s study of the Victorian temperance movement ended and surveys the period from 1869, when the state began to take more control of alcohol regulation and licensing, up until 1914 when wartime regulations were imposed on alcohol sale and consumption. Harrison’s study ended just at the point when the expansion and consolidation of the alcohol industry gave consumers more choice than ever in the types of alcoholic drinks they consumed and in the types of drinking places they frequented. Alcohol became a mass-produced commodity available to an expanding consumer market and this led to heightened political, moral and medical concerns about the problems associated with drinking and drunkenness across towns and cities in Britain.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCham
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan Ltd.
Number of pages195
ISBN (Print)9783319929644
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jun 2018


  • Victorian Britain
  • Edwardian Britain
  • alcohol consumption


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