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2,000 years of binge drinking (in Britain)

 
 
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 03:42 am
Definately something extremely in the UK: pubs can be open now 24/24 h!

189 lat nights bids in just one London borough:

http://img515.imageshack.us/img515/1209/clipboard16sy.jpg

Quote:
Britain's binge-drinking crackdown as 24-hr boozing looms

Tuesday • November 15, 2005

The British government launched a hard-hitting campaign to shock people into stopping binge drinking, a widespread problem, days before pubs become free to serve alcohol round the clock.

Hailing the "biggest ever crackdown" on booze-fuelled anti-social behaviour, ministers hammered home a tough line on loutish antics ahead of a possible firestorm on November 24 when many pubs become free to serve 24 hours a day.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke said: "We are determined to crack down firmly on those who get drunk and cause misery to others.

"The message is clear -- go out, have good time and enjoy a drink. But if you are intent on causing trouble, be certain that there will be a heavy price to pay."
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 03:42 am
Quote:
2,000 years of binge drinking

Drunken youths, booze with every meal, children raised on alcohol. No, not the result of 24-hour licensing, but a picture of our troubled relationship with the demon drink.


By Paul Vallely
Published: 19 November 2005

No one is really sure how the British love affair with alcohol began. Stone Age beer jugs have suggested that we were intentionally fermenting alcohol as early as the Neolithic period, 12,000 years ago. Since there is no evidence that we drank it with straws - which the Egyptians did 6,000 years back - that means we probably filtered the wheat husks out with our teeth. We have always been a sophisticated nation when it comes to drink.

We probably didn't get on to thevinum until the Romans came with their wine diluted with water - a habit they picked up from the Greeks (one part wine to four parts water when the weather was hot). Which perhaps explains why their contemporaries said the Greeks were among the most temperate of ancient peoples.

The Romans, despite what you see on the telly nowadays, were generally moderate too, though their traditional values of temperance, frugality and simplicity did give way at times to heavy drinking, degeneracy and corruption. Just our luck, then, that their arrival in Britain coincided with one of their binge periods - the four emperors who ruled from AD37 to AD69 were all known for their abusive drinking, though it was still an offence to be drunk in charge of a chariot.

From the outset there were two cultures. Under the Roman model, wine was consumed with food. Drunkenness was not the norm, and children were often given diluted wine with meals. Or as a modern sociologist would put it, drink was associated with few psycho-social problems and few policies were in place to control the use of alcohol.

It's a model which still holds sway in Mediterranean countries. At dinner with an Italian recently I was struck by his habit of pouring a single mouthful into his glass as he wanted to drink it and, at the end of the meal, walking away from the table with the bottle almost three-quarters full. By contrast not a drop is left under the Germanic model. Untouched by direct Roman influence, most of Britain continued its traditional heavy "feast drinking" patterns. (SeeBeowulf and assorted Nordic poetry for evidence.) Drinks based on grains, not grapes, were the norm - beer, ale, mead and "malt liquor" - and these were often drunk away from the dining table. In northern European culture consumption was characterised by extremes of heavy episodic drinking, but also periods of abstinence.

Perhaps, some drink-shrinks have speculated, the climate was to blame; unpredictable weather patterns produced lean years for the grains or honey from which booze was made. And the lack of sunlight may make people more depressed and susceptible to heavier drinking in winter. The legacy of this is evident still. In northern Europe many people drink with the intention of getting drunk. Public drunkenness is more or less accepted, despite social controls on alcohol consumption, and there are many perceived psycho-social problems related to drinking. With the exception of Britain, none of the countries which match this description are former Roman provinces.

None of which would have surprised the old centurions. When they called someone a "beer-swiller" grave insult was intended. The best way to conquer Germanic people, the Roman senator Tacitus suggested, was to get them drunk first.

We should not be too simplistic about all this. All cultures have used alcohol: as a relaxant, a solace, a medicine; to give courage in battle, numb pain and to seduce lovers; to celebrate symbolic moments such as ending feuds, sealing pacts, and at religious celebrations. But even so, alcohol has been seen by the British through a lens at different points in our history.

In the early days beer was primarily a food, rich in carbohydrates. Some historians have speculated that ale, a thick and nutritious soupy beverage, may have preceded bread as a staple. Brewing was then left to women. There was another practical point. Beer had been boiled, contained bug-killing yeast and alcohol, so it was less likely to give you cholera than the local water. And it could be stored longer than grain or bread without fear of pest infestation or rotting. Beer was good for you.

In medieval England they got three fermentations from the mash, with the strongest going to the men, the second to the women and the "small beer" of the third - with an alcoholic proof of about 2.5 per cent - to the children, the nuns and the monks. They were not stinting. In some monasteries they were allocated 10 pints of small beer per monk per day. And some of the monks kept the strong stuff back for themselves. As the Middle Ages reached their height selling beer was a key component of many monastic economies.

continued
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 03:44 am
Quote:
Monks brewed virtually all beer of good quality until the 12th century. But gradually the home breweries became inns and taverns to provide sustenance for travellers and pilgrims. Brewers were recognised as a guild in England. The adulteration of beer became a capital offence in Scotland. By the 16th century, in Coventry, the average amount of beer and ale consumed was 17 pints per person per week.

Wine continued as a minority interest. The monks, again, made the best -vinum theologium - to use in the Eucharist. But the wine the nobility drank was imported, mainly from France. Later there were also some spirits - acquae vitae - when the still, which had been invented by Muslim alchemists, made its way to Europe in the 11th century.

It was in Tudor times that this all became a problem. Widespread inebriety was chronicled in Elizabethan England, where drunkenness first became a crime. Jacobean writers described drunkenness among all classes and in 1606 Parliament passed "The Act to Repress the Odious and Loathsome Sin of Drunkenness". The response of polite society was to pronounce wine as medicinal. Hops, which were primarily medicinal plants, had been added to beer some time before. Now all kinds of things were mixed with wine.

Tobias Whitaker said in his 1638 bookThe Tree of Humane Life, or The Bloud of the Grape that wine could maintain "humane life from infancy to extreame old age without any sicknesse". People who regularly drank wine could be expected to be "faire, fresh, plumpe, and fat", rather than water or small beer drinkers, who "look like Apes". Cordials in which a gallon and half of white or rhenish wine, were mixed with the buds, husks or leaves of walnuts, rue, balm, mugwort, celandine, angelica, agrimony, pimpernel and snapdragons were thought to ward off "infectious air, plague and the pestilence".

But wine could not withstand the onslaught of gin. The Navigation Act of 1651 dictated that European vessels were only allowed to import goods from their own nations into England. Since most ships in those days were Dutch this dealt a severe blow to the French wine trade. Gin was invented in Holland around 1650 by distilling grain with juniper berries. It was cheap and the supply was fed by laws in 1690 to encourage the distillation and sale of spirits to increase incomes of the landed aristocracy. It was around this time Scotland and Ireland were developing reputations for whiskies. What flooded the market was the spirit that led to the Gin Epidemic. When the law was passed gin production stood at a million gallons a year. Within seven years the English population, of less than seven million, was drinking an annual 18 million gallons.

The epidemic lasted 30 years. "Drunk for one penny, dead drunk for two," the adverts said. Pharmacists sold it to women to "soothe the nerves"; it became known as Mother's Ruin. In 1736 Parliament tried passing a law taxing gin and prohibiting its sale in quantities of less than two gallons. There were riots, and production of gin continued to rise.

Eventually gin consumption waned as beer became better and cheaper, and tea and coffee became available. But in the industrial revolution factories needed a reliable work force. Drunkenness became a threat to industrial efficiency. As towns grew rapidly around factories problems such as urban crime, poverty and high infant mortality increased. Gross overcrowding was the root cause but alcohol took a lot of the blame.

Temperance groups sprang up to promote the moderate use but soon began to press for abstinence. The Methodist Church movement backed this. Huge numbers were prompted to "take the pledge". Alcohol was continuously debated in Parliament.

But it was not until booze became an issue of national security that the government decided to act. During the First World War, the Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, was concerned about the amount of alcohol being consumed by female arms workers. Britain was "fighting Germans, Austrians and Drink, and as far as I can see the greatest of these foes is Drink", he said.

He was tempted to outlaw it entirely, but feared a backlash. He persuaded King George V to promise that no alcohol would be consumed in the Royal Household until the war was over. Then he introduced laws reducing the strength of beer, banning the buying of rounds in pubs and restricting pub opening hours. By the end of the war, British alcohol consumption had fallen by almost two-thirds. Politicians lost interest and the temperance movements died away.

Alcohol has re-emerged as a health issue with concerns about its impact on heart disease, stroke risk, blood pressure and cancers. A quarter of men and one in six women drink at "hazardous" levels. Those drinkers spill over on to our streets, often with violent consequences.

Tony Blair could bring back spot fines for yobs who stagger drunk from the bars which the Prime Minister has ensured will now stay open even longer. Or he could get more radical. In the Middle Ages they used to blame "brew witches". The last of these was burnt in 1591. Perhaps it's time to revisit some old ideas. Or he could think twice about extending pub opening hours.

Source
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 03:45 am
George Sims, Horrible London (1889):

Quote:
More than one-fourth of the daily earnings of the citizens of the slums goes over the bars of the public-houses and gin-places. On a Saturday night, butchers, bakers, greengrocers, clothiers, furniture dealers, all the caterers for the wants of the populace, are open till a late hour; there are hundreds of them trading around and about, but the whole lot do not take as much money as three publicans - that is a fact ghastly enough in all conscience. Enter the public-houses, and you will see them crammed. Here are artisans and labourers drinking away the wages that ought to clothe their little ones. Here are the women squandering the money that would purchase food, for the lack of which the children are dying.

as quoted in Spartacus Schoolnet

Links:

1. Does Britain have a drinking problem?

2. DO TRADITIONAL WESTERN EUROPEAN DRINKING PRACTICES HAVE ORIGINS IN ANTIQUITY ?

3. Uncorking the past - Recreating old drinks provides an enjoyable form of time-travelling

4. British pubs and drinks
0 Replies
 
goodfielder
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 04:16 am
It was the Jutes - I knew I loved 'em Very Happy
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 06:00 am
Costs you a bit that I dug that out and posted it! :wink:
0 Replies
 
Sturgis
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 06:17 am
ah yes...24 hour a day (and night) drinking....wasn't that how I started on my journey to hell? Never needed a place to be open all the time I found ways to access the alcohol whenever I wanted it...a good serious drunkard always will. (and I took my boozing very seriously)


Thanks for the posts W.H.
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 09:08 am
Great stuff, Walter. Interesting, that bit about prohibition having been proposed in Britain at the end of WW I. I didn't know that. In the USA, of course, it became fact. Prohibition was possibly the single most destructive piece of legislation ever enacted in this country. It has been estimated that more people became drunk during those years when alcohol was illegal in America than at any other time in history. People felt it was their duty to drink in order to protest Prohibition. People who didn't care for alcohol became drunks. And it was this one fact of life which was primnarily responsible for the rise of organized crime here. All the famous gangsters of that era were primarily 'bootleggers', providers of alcohol to the masses. Without Prohibition, who knows whether they could ever have become the social power that they did become. Today, of course, much the same situation is being perpetuated by the senseless anti-drug laws.

Great reading, Walter. Thanks again.
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 04:44 pm
growing up in hamburg/germany meant that on sunday mornings we would often go to the "fishmarket" - this is where the fishing-boats would land their catch and sell directly to the consumer, rather than selling to a wholesaler.
the market started at 6 o'clock in the morning and my dad, my brother and i would often leave before having had breakfast at home. at the market we would often meet my father's dad; a fellow who liked his food. so grandpa would often lead us into the nearest pub for a good breakfast. grandpa and dad would usually have a coffee with their meal followed by some beers. we boys would usually have hot chocolate.
i remember a morning when we met up with one of my dad's workmates. grandpa invited the fellow to join us for brekfast. "thanks" , he replied, "i already had breakfast". when grandpa asked questioningly : "how could you have had breakfast, i'm sure your wife isn't up yet " ; the answer was : "oh, i had breakfast allright, i had a couple bottles of beer" ... he wasn't going to leave the house hungry ! hbg

"scene from the hamburg fishmarket"

http://www.schmunzelmal.de/Bilder/Fischmarkt2.jpg
0 Replies
 
msolga
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 05:10 pm
bm

Very interesting, Walter!
0 Replies
 
Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Sat 19 Nov, 2005 09:32 pm
I can well remember an old-timer describing beer as 'just liquid bread.' (Good story, humburger.)
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Nov, 2005 02:38 am
That has been a very common expression here in Germany .... and still is in some regions like Bavaria.
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hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Nov, 2005 02:16 pm
here is an article from the "scotsman".
opening hours to be restricted to 10 am to 10 pm ?
how are the poor scots going to slake their thirst at breakfast time ? i'm glad to see that " Ministers are to hold an urgent meeting " - what could be more urgent than discussing opening hours ? hbg
-----------------------------------------------------------

Sun 20 Nov 2005

Talks planned on drinks law reform.

Ministers are to hold an urgent meeting with the drinks trade to discuss the outcome of last week's chaotic Holyrood debate on licensing law reform, it has emerged.

The move was disclosed by Executive minister George Lyon, who also said the controversial decision to cut off-sales opening hours might be reversed by ministers - but not until two years after the 2007 Holyrood election.


And the Liberal Democrats may campaign on this in the election, arguing for local bodies to be given the right to set off-licence opening hours, Mr Lyon said.

He told BBC TV's The Politics Show that "a good number" of trade bodies wanted an urgent meeting with the Executive to discuss the debacle.

"I intend to agree to meetings with them to discuss the outcome of Wednesday's vote," said Mr Lyon, deputy minister for finance and public services.

Events at Holyrood on Wednesday have put the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition under strain and have prompted demands for reforming the way proposed legislation is handled in its final parliamentary stages.

After years of scrutiny and debate, MSPs backed a radical reform of Scotland's licensing laws. But in that process they brought in last-minute changes to the hours off-licences will be allowed to open.

They backed a Labour amendment that will restrict opening hours from 10am to 10pm - two hours shorter than at present.

Mr Lyon told the programme: "There is a provision that gives ministers the power to vary the off-sales time, so that 10am-10pm, which was voted on in Parliament, can be adjusted in the future. The new legislation doesn't come in until 2009, so it will be for the next administration to decide whether it wishes to exercise that power.

"I'm quite clear that consumers and the trade will wish to see it amended."

© Copyright Press Association Ltd 2005, All Rights Reserved.


This article: http://news.scotsman.com/latest.cfm?id=2272212005

Last updated: 20-Nov-05 14:43 GMT
0 Replies
 
Noddy24
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Nov, 2005 03:30 pm
I assume that England and Scotland have some industries/institutions such as hospitals, factories, newspapers, etc., which have employees working round the clock.

One man's breakfast might well be another man's dinner.
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Nov, 2005 05:41 pm
when i was still working in germany, the "coffeeshop" in the office opened at 8 a.m.
you had the choice of a cup of coffee - with a cookie on the side - or a bottle of beer - no sidedish - ; 20 pfennigs each - take your pick . hbg
0 Replies
 
goodfielder
 
  1  
Reply Sun 20 Nov, 2005 07:40 pm
Noddy24 wrote:
I assume that England and Scotland have some industries/institutions such as hospitals, factories, newspapers, etc., which have employees working round the clock.

One man's breakfast might well be another man's dinner.


Befiore the current licensing laws here (which allow an establishment to be open as long as it wishes on any day except Good Friday) there used to be early openers at the pubs near the old fruit and vegetable market in the city and down at the port. Despite the then restrictive hours you could get a drink at any time if you knew where to look (legally). We have very, very liberal licensing laws now and our society hasn't fallen apart (it was always like this).

Very Happy
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Nov, 2005 12:18 am
Same here, and pubs had opened before until in the early morning and open at 8 as well (legally).

So it really wasn't anything big that they now could open .... 24/24 (? not sure)

And of course, if you just were in need of some alcohool and didn't bother that it was bottled: petrol station shops are and were open 24/24, so you always can buy beer, spirits there.
0 Replies
 
goodfielder
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Nov, 2005 04:57 am
But we can't buy liquor in a service (petrol) station Walter (except in what are called "licensed stores" which are in small, rural settlements without *gasp!* - a pub). It's because our state government has wanted to protect pubs from too much competition I think.
0 Replies
 
hamburger
 
  1  
Reply Mon 21 Nov, 2005 05:00 pm
at german railway stations there is usually a store ready to sell "liquid" refreshments at any time of the day. there are often also vending machines ready to come to the aid of a thirsty traveller; you can/could buy softdrinks, chocolate bars, beer and other alcoholic drinks (miniature bottles).
other stores that had to observe regular store hours were in the past quite unhappy about this "unfair" competion. of course, this was all meant to help the travelling public, but some "non-travellers" were shameless enough to take advantage of these prolonged opening hours. (don't know for sure what it's like now). hbg
0 Replies
 
Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Tue 22 Nov, 2005 12:36 am
Nowadays, the bigger stations have got supermarkets in the stations, open until late at night, which sell of cours things like such. (Mostly by dugstore chaines - which doesn't make any difference at all to the products.)
0 Replies
 
 

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