The Drink Problem in Early Victorian Britain, 1830–70

  • John Greenaway


Governments had been concerned about the dangers of intoxicants as far back as Tudor times. The link to public disorder or crime was the main issue. Hence, the very first reference in England to liquor licensing came in a statute of 1494 that dealt with the problem of ‘vagabonds’ and gave the justices of the peace power to ‘reject and put away common ale selling’ where they deemed necessary.1 From time to time, moralists also waxed lyrical about the effects of overindulgence among the masses. This was especially marked in the celebrated ‘gin mania’ in London in the eighteenth century, so vividly satirised and illustrated by Hogarth. However, there had been no systematic policy or attitude towards alcohol or its abuse. Indeed, the gin problem had been the unintended result of the landed interest in Parliament desiring to dispose of a glut of corn and to raise money for a war with France.2 By the early nineteenth century, however, the issue of the excess consumption of alcohol began to be defined as a social problem, one of intemperance or excessive drinking.


Public House Retail Outlet Select Committee Temperance Movement Social Elite 
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Copyright information

© John Greenaway 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Greenaway
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Economic and Social StudiesThe University of East AngliaUK

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