THE 1800s

The large-scale commercialization of beer, wine, and distilled liquor spread rapidly in Europe as many businesses and industries became international in scope. Large portions of the European proletariat were no longer tied to the land for subsistence, and new means of transportation facili tated vast migrations. The industrial revolution was not an event but a long process, in which, for many people, work became separated from home. The arbitrary pace imposed by wage work contrasted markedly with the seasonal pace of traditional agrarianism.

In some contexts neighbors still drank while helping each other—as, for example, in barn-raising or reciprocal labor exchange during the harvest. But for the urban masses, leisure and a middle class emerged as new phenomena. Drinking, which became increasingly forbidden in the workplace as dangerous or inefficient, gradually became a leisure activity, often timed to mark the transition between the workday and home life. As markets grew, foods became diverse, so that beers and ciders (usually hard) lost their special value as nourishing and energizing.

In Europe, political boundaries were approximately those of the twentieth century; trains and steamships changed the face of trade; and old ideas about social inequality were increasingly challenged. Alcohol lost much of its religious importance as ascetic Protestant groups, and even fervent Catholic priests in Ireland, associated crime, family disruption, unemployment, and a host of other social ills with it, and taxation and other restrictions were broadly imposed. In Russia, the czar ordered prohibition, but only briefly as popular opposition mounted and government revenues plummeted. Those who paid special attention to physical and mental illnesses were quick to link disease with long-term heavy drinking, although liquor remained an important part of medicine for various curative purposes. A few institutions sprang up late in the nineteenth century to accommodate so-called inebriates, although there was little consensus about how or why drinking created problems for some people but not for others, nor was there any systematic research.

A wave of mounting religious concern that has been called the ''great awakening'' swept over the United States early in the 1800s, and, by 1850, a dozen states had enacted prohibition. Antialcohol sentiment was often associated with opposition to slavery. The local prohibition laws were repealed as the Civil War and religious fervor abated, and hard drinking became emblematic of cowboys, miners, lumberjacks, and other colorful characters associated with the expanding frontier. Distinctions of wealth became more important than those of he reditary social status, and a wide variety of beverages, of apparatus associated with drinking, and even of public drinking establishments accentuated such class differences.

Near the end of the century, another wave of sentiment against alcohol grew, as large numbers of immigrants (many of them Catholic and anything but ascetic) were seen by Protestant Yankees as trouble—competing for jobs, changing the political climate, and challenging old values. Coupled with this attitude was enthusiasm for ''clean living,'' with an emphasis on natural foods, exercise, fresh air and water, loose-fitting clothing, and a number of other fads that have recently reappeared on the scene.

Native American populations, in the meantime, suffered various degrees of displacement, exploitation, and annihilation, sometimes as a result of deliberate national policy and sometimes as a result of local tensions. The stereotype of the drunken Indian became embedded in novels, news accounts, and the public mind, although the image applied to only a small segment of life among the several hundred native populations. Some Indians remained abstinent and some returned to abstinence as part of a deliberate espousal of indigenous values—for example, in the Native American Church, using PEYOTE as a sacrament, or in the sun dance or the sweat lodge, using asceticism as a combined religious and intellectually cleansing precept.

From Asia, Africa, and Oceania, explorers, traders, missionaries, and others brought back increasingly detailed descriptions of non-Western drinking practices and their outcomes. It is from such ethnographic reports — often sensationalized—that we can guess about the earlier distribution of native drinks and can recognize new alcoholic beverages as major commodities in the commercial exploitation of populations. Although some of the sacramental associations of traditional beverages were transferred to new ones, the increasing separation of brewing from the home, the expansion of a money-based economy, and the apparent prestige value of Western drinks all tended to diminish the significance of home brews. In African mines, Latin American plantations, and even some U.S. factories, liquor became an integral part of the wage system, with workers required to accept alcohol in lieu of some of their cash earnings. In some societies where drinking had been unknown before Western colonization, the rapid spread of alcohol appears to have been an integral part of a complex process that eroded traditional values and authority.

Drug Free Life

Drug Free Life

How To Beat Drugs And Be On Your Way To Full Recovery. In this book, you will learn all about: Background Info On Drugs, Psychological Treatments Statistics, Rehab, Hypnosis and Much MORE.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment