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The Politics of AlcoholA History of the Drink Question in England$
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James Nicholls

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780719077050

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719077050.001.0001

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Healths, toasts and pledges: political drinking in the seventeenth century

Healths, toasts and pledges: political drinking in the seventeenth century

(p.21) 2 Healths, toasts and pledges: political drinking in the seventeenth century
The Politics of Alcohol

James Nicholls

Manchester University Press

In the seventeenth century, the stream of alehouse legislation in England was accompanied by a rising tide of religious anti-drink literature. The drinking of healths, toasts, and pledges caused particular anxiety among seventeenth-century religious writers. Numerous writers claimed that the drunkenness which occurred in alehouses and taverns was the result of drinking rituals. The Civil War led to a new intensification of the political symbolism of alcohol — both in terms of drinks and drinking rituals. Historically, wine was subject to far more legislative control than ale or beer. In practice, the kind of people who made up the political elite in the late seventeenth century all drank wine — at least, in the privacy of their own houses. Nevertheless, in the political discourse of the Restoration drink became a symbolic marker of cultural difference in which Tories stood for claret, and Whigs stood for beer. By the 1680s, historical and cultural distinctions between wine and beer-drinking had become embroiled in the new party politics which followed the Exclusion Crisis.

Keywords:   England, drunkenness, alehouses, drinking, healths, toasts, pledges, Restoration, wine, beer

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