Britain On The Bottle - Alcohol And The State

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01King James I2010071920100719 (BBC7)
20130417 (BBC7)

The early 17th century saw the first moral panic in English history about the social impact of drunkenness, and Mark Whitaker begins his narrative history series on the politics of alcohol with King James I's campaign against it.

At a time of rapid social change, with increasing religious division and political tension, the ruling classes came to see the ale-houses used by the poor as deeply threatening. In the first three years of his reign James passed Acts against the spread of ale-houses and against "the loathsome sin of drunkenness".

But the state had no police force, so it depended on the pulpit to put the fear of God into the country's drinkers. "It is no one sin, but all sins" became the message; the drunkard was someone "wholly at Satan's command."

But drink was a central and celebrated part of daily life. Ale was regarded by the poor as vital to their diet, and drinking it was portrayed as a patriotic duty, while the rituals of social and family life for the wealthy were washed down with French or Portuguese wine. Royal celebrations at the Palace of Whitehall were also notoriously drunken affairs.

Actors read extracts from sermons, memoirs and pamphlets.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

At a time of rapid social change, with increasing religious division and political tension, the ruling classes came to see the ale-houses used by the poor as deeply threatening.

In the first three years of his reign James passed Acts against the spread of ale-houses and against "the loathsome sin of drunkenness".

But the state had no police force, so it depended on the pulpit to put the fear of God into the country's drinkers.

"It is no one sin, but all sins" became the message; the drunkard was someone "wholly at Satan's command."

But drink was a central and celebrated part of daily life.

Ale was regarded by the poor as vital to their diet, and drinking it was portrayed as a patriotic duty, while the rituals of social and family life for the wealthy were washed down with French or Portuguese wine.

Royal celebrations at the Palace of Whitehall were also notoriously drunken affairs.

Mark Whitaker examines King James I's campaign against drunkenness.

01King James I2010071920100719 (BBC7)
20130417 (BBC7)

The early 17th century saw the first moral panic in English history about the social impact of drunkenness, and Mark Whitaker begins his narrative history series on the politics of alcohol with King James I's campaign against it.

At a time of rapid social change, with increasing religious division and political tension, the ruling classes came to see the ale-houses used by the poor as deeply threatening. In the first three years of his reign James passed Acts against the spread of ale-houses and against "the loathsome sin of drunkenness".

But the state had no police force, so it depended on the pulpit to put the fear of God into the country's drinkers. "It is no one sin, but all sins" became the message; the drunkard was someone "wholly at Satan's command."

But drink was a central and celebrated part of daily life. Ale was regarded by the poor as vital to their diet, and drinking it was portrayed as a patriotic duty, while the rituals of social and family life for the wealthy were washed down with French or Portuguese wine. Royal celebrations at the Palace of Whitehall were also notoriously drunken affairs.

Actors read extracts from sermons, memoirs and pamphlets.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

At a time of rapid social change, with increasing religious division and political tension, the ruling classes came to see the ale-houses used by the poor as deeply threatening.

In the first three years of his reign James passed Acts against the spread of ale-houses and against "the loathsome sin of drunkenness".

But the state had no police force, so it depended on the pulpit to put the fear of God into the country's drinkers.

"It is no one sin, but all sins" became the message; the drunkard was someone "wholly at Satan's command."

But drink was a central and celebrated part of daily life.

Ale was regarded by the poor as vital to their diet, and drinking it was portrayed as a patriotic duty, while the rituals of social and family life for the wealthy were washed down with French or Portuguese wine.

Royal celebrations at the Palace of Whitehall were also notoriously drunken affairs.

Mark Whitaker examines King James I's campaign against drunkenness.

02The Gin Act Of 17362010072020130418 (BBC7)

'Madam Geneva', she was called: the provider of 'Dutch Courage'. Mark Whitaker explores the Gin Craze of mid-18th century England.

William Hogarth's "Gin Lane" of 1751 is perhaps the best-known piece of propagandist art ever produced in England. It portrays the ravages of the gin addiction that for twenty-five years had dominated the life of the London poor. Gin had first been introduced into the country by William III, and the landed classes soon became rich producing the grain from which it was distilled; and governments depended on taxing it.

But by the end of the 1720s people started to recognise the social damage it was causing. Nothing like it had been seen before. The best writers of the day took up the issue. Daniel Defoe wrote against "the abuse of that nauseous liquor among our lower sort" and argued that it was undermining England's economic power. Henry Fielding called gin a "diabolical liquor" and wanted it banned completely.

Walpole's government passed a series of Gin Acts, the most draconian being that of 1736. The liquor trade went underground and Government informers roamed the streets. When serious riots broke out in Spitalfields in August 1736 Walpole explained them as the people's desperation at "the approaching expiration of their darling vice." But the government was forced to back down.

Actors read extracts from Defoe and Fielding, from Walpole's letters and from parliamentary debates.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

'Madam Geneva', she was called: the provider of 'Dutch Courage'.

Mark Whitaker explores the Gin Craze of mid-18th century England.

William Hogarth's "Gin Lane" of 1751 is perhaps the best-known piece of propagandist art ever produced in England.

It portrays the ravages of the gin addiction that for twenty-five years had dominated the life of the London poor.

Gin had first been introduced into the country by William III, and the landed classes soon became rich producing the grain from which it was distilled; and governments depended on taxing it.

But by the end of the 1720s people started to recognise the social damage it was causing.

Nothing like it had been seen before.

The best writers of the day took up the issue.

Daniel Defoe wrote against "the abuse of that nauseous liquor among our lower sort" and argued that it was undermining England's economic power.

Henry Fielding called gin a "diabolical liquor" and wanted it banned completely.

Walpole's government passed a series of Gin Acts, the most draconian being that of 1736.

The liquor trade went underground and Government informers roamed the streets.

When serious riots broke out in Spitalfields in August 1736 Walpole explained them as the people's desperation at "the approaching expiration of their darling vice." But the government was forced to back down.

Mark Whitaker explores the 18th-century Gin Craze and what the authorities did about it.

02The Gin Act Of 17362010072020130418 (BBC7)

'Madam Geneva', she was called: the provider of 'Dutch Courage'. Mark Whitaker explores the Gin Craze of mid-18th century England.

William Hogarth's "Gin Lane" of 1751 is perhaps the best-known piece of propagandist art ever produced in England. It portrays the ravages of the gin addiction that for twenty-five years had dominated the life of the London poor. Gin had first been introduced into the country by William III, and the landed classes soon became rich producing the grain from which it was distilled; and governments depended on taxing it.

But by the end of the 1720s people started to recognise the social damage it was causing. Nothing like it had been seen before. The best writers of the day took up the issue. Daniel Defoe wrote against "the abuse of that nauseous liquor among our lower sort" and argued that it was undermining England's economic power. Henry Fielding called gin a "diabolical liquor" and wanted it banned completely.

Walpole's government passed a series of Gin Acts, the most draconian being that of 1736. The liquor trade went underground and Government informers roamed the streets. When serious riots broke out in Spitalfields in August 1736 Walpole explained them as the people's desperation at "the approaching expiration of their darling vice." But the government was forced to back down.

Actors read extracts from Defoe and Fielding, from Walpole's letters and from parliamentary debates.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

'Madam Geneva', she was called: the provider of 'Dutch Courage'.

Mark Whitaker explores the Gin Craze of mid-18th century England.

William Hogarth's "Gin Lane" of 1751 is perhaps the best-known piece of propagandist art ever produced in England.

It portrays the ravages of the gin addiction that for twenty-five years had dominated the life of the London poor.

Gin had first been introduced into the country by William III, and the landed classes soon became rich producing the grain from which it was distilled; and governments depended on taxing it.

But by the end of the 1720s people started to recognise the social damage it was causing.

Nothing like it had been seen before.

The best writers of the day took up the issue.

Daniel Defoe wrote against "the abuse of that nauseous liquor among our lower sort" and argued that it was undermining England's economic power.

Henry Fielding called gin a "diabolical liquor" and wanted it banned completely.

Walpole's government passed a series of Gin Acts, the most draconian being that of 1736.

The liquor trade went underground and Government informers roamed the streets.

When serious riots broke out in Spitalfields in August 1736 Walpole explained them as the people's desperation at "the approaching expiration of their darling vice." But the government was forced to back down.

Mark Whitaker explores the 18th-century Gin Craze and what the authorities did about it.

03The Beer Act Of 18302010072120130419 (BBC7)

Continuing his narrative history series on the ways in which the British state has dealt with the 'Drink Question', Mark Whitaker looks at the 1830 Beer Act - when parliament made the seemingly bizarre decision that the best way to decrease public drunkenness was to make access to alcohol easier.

Why? It was believed that a recent upsurge in the consumption of spirits was a consequence of the quality of beer being so low; and this was because a handful of major brewers owned the pubs and controlled what they sold. The Times called this arrangement "an odious monopoly", and the phrase stuck. In 1830 an MP went as far as to call it "more oppressive to the lower orders than any other that has ever been imposed upon them."

Free Trade was the solution of the day. The 1830 Beer Act made it possible for anybody who could come up with a payment of two guineas to get a license to sell beer in their own home. Over the next six months 25,000 licenses were taken out, and almost overnight a new landscape of drinking had been created in England.

But within four years a Select Committee on drunkenness was meeting, and it began to be argued that the last thing an industrialising country needed was a drunk work force. For the first time there was serious public discussion as to what the social causes of excessive drinking might be, and people started talking about mass education as the key to change.

Actors read from parliamentary debates, and from journals and newspapers.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

Why? It was believed that a recent upsurge in the consumption of spirits was a consequence of the quality of beer being so low; and this was because a handful of major brewers owned the pubs and controlled what they sold.

The Times called this arrangement "an odious monopoly", and the phrase stuck.

In 1830 an MP went as far as to call it "more oppressive to the lower orders than any other that has ever been imposed upon them."

Free Trade was the solution of the day.

The 1830 Beer Act made it possible for anybody who could come up with a payment of two guineas to get a license to sell beer in their own home.

Over the next six months 25,000 licenses were taken out, and almost overnight a new landscape of drinking had been created in England.

But within four years a Select Committee on drunkenness was meeting, and it began to be argued that the last thing an industrialising country needed was a drunk work force.

For the first time there was serious public discussion as to what the social causes of excessive drinking might be, and people started talking about mass education as the key to change.

Mark Whitaker explores the thinking behind the remarkable Beer Act of 1830.

04Temperance And The 1872 Licensing Act2010072220130422 (BBC7)

We join presenter Mark Whitaker in the ideal industrial community of Saltaire, near Bradford. Developed between 1850 and 1870, it was planned as an environment in which workers would be diligent, healthy and happy - because they would have no access to alcohol.

At the heart of the village was the Saltaire Club and Institute that was set up "to supply the advantages of a public-house, but without the evils." Temperance developed from the 1830s as a movement of the skilled working classes, and in 1853 became organised as a formidable political pressure group - the UK Alliance. It argued for teetotalism, and for the right of ratepayers to ban the liquor trade in their own town.

It had formidable parliamentary support. But it was hated by writers such as Charles Dickens, who ridiculed the idea that prohibition would create a more sober nation. The Times dismissed teetotallers as "intolerant brooding theorists".

The issue came to a head in 1871-2. There was a General Election and Gladstone's Liberals were trying to pass a new Licensing Bill. The campaign was marred by violent confrontations between those who wanted more or less freedom to drink. Gladstone himself hoped to create a more continental drinking culture and reduced the duty on French wine. But he couldn't win. When he lost the next Election in 1874 he complained that he'd been "borne down in a torrent of gin and beer."

Actors read from temperance literature, from Dickens and from newspaper reports.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

We join presenter Mark Whitaker in the ideal industrial community of Saltaire, near Bradford.

Developed between 1850 and 1870, it was planned as an environment in which workers would be diligent, healthy and happy - because they would have no access to alcohol.

At the heart of the village was the Saltaire Club and Institute that was set up "to supply the advantages of a public-house, but without the evils." Temperance developed from the 1830s as a movement of the skilled working classes, and in 1853 became organised as a formidable political pressure group - the UK Alliance.

It argued for teetotalism, and for the right of ratepayers to ban the liquor trade in their own town.

It had formidable parliamentary support.

But it was hated by writers such as Charles Dickens, who ridiculed the idea that prohibition would create a more sober nation.

The Times dismissed teetotallers as "intolerant brooding theorists".

The issue came to a head in 1871-2.

There was a General Election and Gladstone's Liberals were trying to pass a new Licensing Bill.

The campaign was marred by violent confrontations between those who wanted more or less freedom to drink.

Gladstone himself hoped to create a more continental drinking culture and reduced the duty on French wine.

But he couldn't win.

When he lost the next Election in 1874 he complained that he'd been "borne down in a torrent of gin and beer."

Mark Whitaker looks at how the temperance movement took a grip on British political life.

04Temperance And The 1872 Licensing Act2010072220130422 (BBC7)

We join presenter Mark Whitaker in the ideal industrial community of Saltaire, near Bradford. Developed between 1850 and 1870, it was planned as an environment in which workers would be diligent, healthy and happy - because they would have no access to alcohol.

At the heart of the village was the Saltaire Club and Institute that was set up "to supply the advantages of a public-house, but without the evils." Temperance developed from the 1830s as a movement of the skilled working classes, and in 1853 became organised as a formidable political pressure group - the UK Alliance. It argued for teetotalism, and for the right of ratepayers to ban the liquor trade in their own town.

It had formidable parliamentary support. But it was hated by writers such as Charles Dickens, who ridiculed the idea that prohibition would create a more sober nation. The Times dismissed teetotallers as "intolerant brooding theorists".

The issue came to a head in 1871-2. There was a General Election and Gladstone's Liberals were trying to pass a new Licensing Bill. The campaign was marred by violent confrontations between those who wanted more or less freedom to drink. Gladstone himself hoped to create a more continental drinking culture and reduced the duty on French wine. But he couldn't win. When he lost the next Election in 1874 he complained that he'd been "borne down in a torrent of gin and beer."

Actors read from temperance literature, from Dickens and from newspaper reports.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

We join presenter Mark Whitaker in the ideal industrial community of Saltaire, near Bradford.

Developed between 1850 and 1870, it was planned as an environment in which workers would be diligent, healthy and happy - because they would have no access to alcohol.

At the heart of the village was the Saltaire Club and Institute that was set up "to supply the advantages of a public-house, but without the evils." Temperance developed from the 1830s as a movement of the skilled working classes, and in 1853 became organised as a formidable political pressure group - the UK Alliance.

It argued for teetotalism, and for the right of ratepayers to ban the liquor trade in their own town.

It had formidable parliamentary support.

But it was hated by writers such as Charles Dickens, who ridiculed the idea that prohibition would create a more sober nation.

The Times dismissed teetotallers as "intolerant brooding theorists".

The issue came to a head in 1871-2.

There was a General Election and Gladstone's Liberals were trying to pass a new Licensing Bill.

The campaign was marred by violent confrontations between those who wanted more or less freedom to drink.

Gladstone himself hoped to create a more continental drinking culture and reduced the duty on French wine.

But he couldn't win.

When he lost the next Election in 1874 he complained that he'd been "borne down in a torrent of gin and beer."

Mark Whitaker looks at how the temperance movement took a grip on British political life.

05Political Thinkers And The Drink Question2010072320100723 (BBC7)
20130423 (BBC7)

Mark Whitaker shows how the 'Drink Question' was of central importance for both of England's most original and influential political thinkers of the 19th century - John Stuart Mill and TH Green.

For both of them it raised the question of how far the state could be justified in interfering in the lives of individuals. The debate had started in the letters page of the Times in 1856, in a high-level exchange between the Tory MP Lord Stanley and Samuel Pope, Secretary of the temperance movement the UK Alliance. The latter argued that his rights as a citizen were "invaded" by the behaviour of heavy drinkers; the former that no Englishman would agree to be "coerced for his own benefit".

Mill picked up the topic in his essay On Liberty, published in 1859. Mill was mid-Victorian England's most influential public intellectual, and his books were best-sellers even though his ideas were radical. He insisted that "drunkenness is not a fit subject for legislative purposes", and feared that the weight of public opinion would crush individualism.

TH Green was an academic philosopher at Oxford, and was deeply involved in the temperance movement during the 1870s. He believed that individual freedom lay in pursuing the common good and that mass drunkenness made this impossible in England. He thought that "moderate drinkers" had to sacrifice their pleasure for the sake of society as a whole.

Actors read extracts from their work.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

For both of them it raised the question of how far the state could be justified in interfering in the lives of individuals.

The debate had started in the letters page of the Times in 1856, in a high-level exchange between the Tory MP Lord Stanley and Samuel Pope, Secretary of the temperance movement the UK Alliance.

The latter argued that his rights as a citizen were "invaded" by the behaviour of heavy drinkers; the former that no Englishman would agree to be "coerced for his own benefit".

Mill picked up the topic in his essay On Liberty, published in 1859.

Mill was mid-Victorian England's most influential public intellectual, and his books were best-sellers even though his ideas were radical.

He insisted that "drunkenness is not a fit subject for legislative purposes", and feared that the weight of public opinion would crush individualism.

TH Green was an academic philosopher at Oxford, and was deeply involved in the temperance movement during the 1870s.

He believed that individual freedom lay in pursuing the common good and that mass drunkenness made this impossible in England.

He thought that "moderate drinkers" had to sacrifice their pleasure for the sake of society as a whole.

Mark Whitaker examines how the 'Drink Question' fascinated 19th century philosophers.

05Political Thinkers And The Drink Question2010072320100723 (BBC7)
20130423 (BBC7)

Mark Whitaker shows how the 'Drink Question' was of central importance for both of England's most original and influential political thinkers of the 19th century - John Stuart Mill and TH Green.

For both of them it raised the question of how far the state could be justified in interfering in the lives of individuals. The debate had started in the letters page of the Times in 1856, in a high-level exchange between the Tory MP Lord Stanley and Samuel Pope, Secretary of the temperance movement the UK Alliance. The latter argued that his rights as a citizen were "invaded" by the behaviour of heavy drinkers; the former that no Englishman would agree to be "coerced for his own benefit".

Mill picked up the topic in his essay On Liberty, published in 1859. Mill was mid-Victorian England's most influential public intellectual, and his books were best-sellers even though his ideas were radical. He insisted that "drunkenness is not a fit subject for legislative purposes", and feared that the weight of public opinion would crush individualism.

TH Green was an academic philosopher at Oxford, and was deeply involved in the temperance movement during the 1870s. He believed that individual freedom lay in pursuing the common good and that mass drunkenness made this impossible in England. He thought that "moderate drinkers" had to sacrifice their pleasure for the sake of society as a whole.

Actors read extracts from their work.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

For both of them it raised the question of how far the state could be justified in interfering in the lives of individuals.

The debate had started in the letters page of the Times in 1856, in a high-level exchange between the Tory MP Lord Stanley and Samuel Pope, Secretary of the temperance movement the UK Alliance.

The latter argued that his rights as a citizen were "invaded" by the behaviour of heavy drinkers; the former that no Englishman would agree to be "coerced for his own benefit".

Mill picked up the topic in his essay On Liberty, published in 1859.

Mill was mid-Victorian England's most influential public intellectual, and his books were best-sellers even though his ideas were radical.

He insisted that "drunkenness is not a fit subject for legislative purposes", and feared that the weight of public opinion would crush individualism.

TH Green was an academic philosopher at Oxford, and was deeply involved in the temperance movement during the 1870s.

He believed that individual freedom lay in pursuing the common good and that mass drunkenness made this impossible in England.

He thought that "moderate drinkers" had to sacrifice their pleasure for the sake of society as a whole.

Mark Whitaker examines how the 'Drink Question' fascinated 19th century philosophers.

06Habitual Drunkards And The Asylum2010072620100726 (BBC7)
20130424 (BBC7)

Mark Whitaker focuses on a new sort of panic that swept the nation at the very end of the 19th century - a panic about the number of 'habitual drunkards' in the country and the impact they were having.

This was the time of pioneering social research by the likes of Booth and Rowntree, and also of a new belief in the ability of government to intervene to change social conditions.

Allied to this was a growing medical confidence that addiction to alcohol was a disease that could be isolated and treated - and a new term was invented, 'inebriety'.

Public and political opinion on the matter was hugely influenced by the publication by the Daily Telegraph in 1891 of a long series of letters giving first-hand accounts of alcohol addiction.

They were revelatory, and the paper called them a "sad mirror of the National Sin".

There was particular concern over the extent of female drunkenness, and this fed into fears about a deterioration of the 'national stock'.

A leading medical figure argued that "the wide-spread prevalence of alcoholism among women, especially during the reproductive period of life, is one of the important factors making for racial decay".

Such fears came to a head when many young men proved insufficiently healthy to fight in the Boer War.

In 1898 Parliament passed an Inebriates Act that required local authorities to set up special 'reformatories' as an alternative to prison for those arrested time after time for being drunk and disorderly.

Courts could sentence people to them for up to three years.

The shift was from condemnation to cure: but the reformatories couldn't survive after the outbreak if war in 1914.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

Mark Whitaker examines the late-19th century panic over 'habitual drunkards'.

This was the time of pioneering social research by the likes of Booth and Rowntree, and also of a new belief in the ability of government to intervene to change social conditions. Allied to this was a growing medical confidence that addiction to alcohol was a disease that could be isolated and treated - and a new term was invented, 'inebriety'.

Public and political opinion on the matter was hugely influenced by the publication by the Daily Telegraph in 1891 of a long series of letters giving first-hand accounts of alcohol addiction. They were revelatory, and the paper called them a "sad mirror of the National Sin". There was particular concern over the extent of female drunkenness, and this fed into fears about a deterioration of the 'national stock'.

A leading medical figure argued that "the wide-spread prevalence of alcoholism among women, especially during the reproductive period of life, is one of the important factors making for racial decay".

Such fears came to a head when many young men proved insufficiently healthy to fight in the Boer War. In 1898 Parliament passed an Inebriates Act that required local authorities to set up special 'reformatories' as an alternative to prison for those arrested time after time for being drunk and disorderly. Courts could sentence people to them for up to three years. The shift was from condemnation to cure: but the reformatories couldn't survive after the outbreak if war in 1914.

06Habitual Drunkards And The Asylum2010072620100726 (BBC7)
20130424 (BBC7)

Mark Whitaker focuses on a new sort of panic that swept the nation at the very end of the 19th century - a panic about the number of 'habitual drunkards' in the country and the impact they were having.

This was the time of pioneering social research by the likes of Booth and Rowntree, and also of a new belief in the ability of government to intervene to change social conditions.

Allied to this was a growing medical confidence that addiction to alcohol was a disease that could be isolated and treated - and a new term was invented, 'inebriety'.

Public and political opinion on the matter was hugely influenced by the publication by the Daily Telegraph in 1891 of a long series of letters giving first-hand accounts of alcohol addiction.

They were revelatory, and the paper called them a "sad mirror of the National Sin".

There was particular concern over the extent of female drunkenness, and this fed into fears about a deterioration of the 'national stock'.

A leading medical figure argued that "the wide-spread prevalence of alcoholism among women, especially during the reproductive period of life, is one of the important factors making for racial decay".

Such fears came to a head when many young men proved insufficiently healthy to fight in the Boer War.

In 1898 Parliament passed an Inebriates Act that required local authorities to set up special 'reformatories' as an alternative to prison for those arrested time after time for being drunk and disorderly.

Courts could sentence people to them for up to three years.

The shift was from condemnation to cure: but the reformatories couldn't survive after the outbreak if war in 1914.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

Mark Whitaker examines the late-19th century panic over 'habitual drunkards'.

This was the time of pioneering social research by the likes of Booth and Rowntree, and also of a new belief in the ability of government to intervene to change social conditions. Allied to this was a growing medical confidence that addiction to alcohol was a disease that could be isolated and treated - and a new term was invented, 'inebriety'.

Public and political opinion on the matter was hugely influenced by the publication by the Daily Telegraph in 1891 of a long series of letters giving first-hand accounts of alcohol addiction. They were revelatory, and the paper called them a "sad mirror of the National Sin". There was particular concern over the extent of female drunkenness, and this fed into fears about a deterioration of the 'national stock'.

A leading medical figure argued that "the wide-spread prevalence of alcoholism among women, especially during the reproductive period of life, is one of the important factors making for racial decay".

Such fears came to a head when many young men proved insufficiently healthy to fight in the Boer War. In 1898 Parliament passed an Inebriates Act that required local authorities to set up special 'reformatories' as an alternative to prison for those arrested time after time for being drunk and disorderly. Courts could sentence people to them for up to three years. The shift was from condemnation to cure: but the reformatories couldn't survive after the outbreak if war in 1914.

07The Central Control Board Of 19152010072720130425 (BBC7)

"Drink is doing us more damage in the War than all the German submarines put together", insisted Lloyd George in February 1915.

Continuing his history series on how British governments have approached the 'Drink Question', Mark Whitaker looks at the years of the First World War, when everything was determined by the needs of 'national efficiency'.

After a few months of war it became clear that Britain needed to make more munitions - and fast. But output was slowed down by the workers' drinking habits. "We are fighting German, Austrians and Drink", said Lloyd George as he embarked on a plan for the government to buy up the country's whole liquor trade.

But the Cabinet balked at the price. Instead a Central Control Board (CCB) was set up in 1915 with the power to take over the trade in areas of particular sensitivity to the war effort. The largest of these was Gretna-Carlisle, where a new national munitions factory was built.

The number of licences was drastically reduced: the beer was weakened: the sale of spirits limited: and pubs encouraged to provide food as well as drink. Newspapers called it "the largest social experiment of our time". A Carlisle vicar called state control "the dawning of a new era". It worked too. Convictions for drunkenness in CCB-controlled areas declined dramatically, and many began to think that nationalisation might finally be the solution to the 'Drink Question'.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

"Drink is doing us more damage in the War than all the German submarines put together", insisted Lloyd George in February 1915.

After a few months of war it became clear that Britain needed to make more munitions - and fast.

But output was slowed down by the workers' drinking habits.

"We are fighting German, Austrians and Drink", said Lloyd George as he embarked on a plan for the government to buy up the country's whole liquor trade.

But the Cabinet balked at the price.

Instead a Central Control Board (CCB) was set up in 1915 with the power to take over the trade in areas of particular sensitivity to the war effort.

The largest of these was Gretna-Carlisle, where a new national munitions factory was built.

The number of licences was drastically reduced: the beer was weakened: the sale of spirits limited: and pubs encouraged to provide food as well as drink.

Newspapers called it "the largest social experiment of our time".

A Carlisle vicar called state control "the dawning of a new era".

It worked too.

Convictions for drunkenness in CCB-controlled areas declined dramatically, and many began to think that nationalisation might finally be the solution to the 'Drink Question'.

07The Central Control Board Of 19152010072720130425 (BBC7)

"Drink is doing us more damage in the War than all the German submarines put together", insisted Lloyd George in February 1915.

Continuing his history series on how British governments have approached the 'Drink Question', Mark Whitaker looks at the years of the First World War, when everything was determined by the needs of 'national efficiency'.

After a few months of war it became clear that Britain needed to make more munitions - and fast. But output was slowed down by the workers' drinking habits. "We are fighting German, Austrians and Drink", said Lloyd George as he embarked on a plan for the government to buy up the country's whole liquor trade.

But the Cabinet balked at the price. Instead a Central Control Board (CCB) was set up in 1915 with the power to take over the trade in areas of particular sensitivity to the war effort. The largest of these was Gretna-Carlisle, where a new national munitions factory was built.

The number of licences was drastically reduced: the beer was weakened: the sale of spirits limited: and pubs encouraged to provide food as well as drink. Newspapers called it "the largest social experiment of our time". A Carlisle vicar called state control "the dawning of a new era". It worked too. Convictions for drunkenness in CCB-controlled areas declined dramatically, and many began to think that nationalisation might finally be the solution to the 'Drink Question'.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

"Drink is doing us more damage in the War than all the German submarines put together", insisted Lloyd George in February 1915.

After a few months of war it became clear that Britain needed to make more munitions - and fast.

But output was slowed down by the workers' drinking habits.

"We are fighting German, Austrians and Drink", said Lloyd George as he embarked on a plan for the government to buy up the country's whole liquor trade.

But the Cabinet balked at the price.

Instead a Central Control Board (CCB) was set up in 1915 with the power to take over the trade in areas of particular sensitivity to the war effort.

The largest of these was Gretna-Carlisle, where a new national munitions factory was built.

The number of licences was drastically reduced: the beer was weakened: the sale of spirits limited: and pubs encouraged to provide food as well as drink.

Newspapers called it "the largest social experiment of our time".

A Carlisle vicar called state control "the dawning of a new era".

It worked too.

Convictions for drunkenness in CCB-controlled areas declined dramatically, and many began to think that nationalisation might finally be the solution to the 'Drink Question'.

08Improving The Pub2010072820100728 (BBC7)
20130426 (BBC7)

It seemed possible during the 1920s that the 'Drink Question' that had bedevilled British governments for so long might finally be about to be consigned to the past.

The fall in consumption - which had started during the First World War - continued throughout the decade, and political attention focused on why. This was when the Labour Party formed its first governments, and there were powerful socialist voices arguing for a full nationalisation of the drinks industry. This could be a route to weaning the working classes away from a product that was "a powerful weapon in the hands of the exploiters". George Bernard Shaw called liquor "a chloroform that allows the poor to endure the painful operation of living".

But while governments chose to sit on the fence during the 1920s, the brewing industry got busy. Led by people like Ernest Nevile, the head of Whitbread's, they set about designing and building a new type of pub - one that would attract a new middle class clientele. "The presence in public houses of people who will not tolerate insobriety makes excess unfashionable".

What were called 'improved pubs' - huge buildings with bars, restaurants, ball rooms, bowling greens and even tennis courts - sprung up in the new suburbs. When Nevile said "if I can cure drunkenness in the country in my time, that will satisfy me" he was talking business, not morality.

The programme also looks at the first attempts at a sociology of the pub, and what people wanted from it.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

The fall in consumption - which had started during the First World War - continued throughout the decade, and political attention focused on why.

This was when the Labour Party formed its first governments, and there were powerful socialist voices arguing for a full nationalisation of the drinks industry.

This could be a route to weaning the working classes away from a product that was "a powerful weapon in the hands of the exploiters".

George Bernard Shaw called liquor "a chloroform that allows the poor to endure the painful operation of living".

But while governments chose to sit on the fence during the 1920s, the brewing industry got busy.

Led by people like Ernest Nevile, the head of Whitbread's, they set about designing and building a new type of pub - one that would attract a new middle class clientele.

"The presence in public houses of people who will not tolerate insobriety makes excess unfashionable".

What were called 'improved pubs' - huge buildings with bars, restaurants, ball rooms, bowling greens and even tennis courts - sprung up in the new suburbs.

When Nevile said "if I can cure drunkenness in the country in my time, that will satisfy me" he was talking business, not morality.

Mark Whitaker explores the 'improved pub' movement of the 1920s.

08Improving The Pub2010072820100728 (BBC7)
20130426 (BBC7)

It seemed possible during the 1920s that the 'Drink Question' that had bedevilled British governments for so long might finally be about to be consigned to the past.

The fall in consumption - which had started during the First World War - continued throughout the decade, and political attention focused on why. This was when the Labour Party formed its first governments, and there were powerful socialist voices arguing for a full nationalisation of the drinks industry. This could be a route to weaning the working classes away from a product that was "a powerful weapon in the hands of the exploiters". George Bernard Shaw called liquor "a chloroform that allows the poor to endure the painful operation of living".

But while governments chose to sit on the fence during the 1920s, the brewing industry got busy. Led by people like Ernest Nevile, the head of Whitbread's, they set about designing and building a new type of pub - one that would attract a new middle class clientele. "The presence in public houses of people who will not tolerate insobriety makes excess unfashionable".

What were called 'improved pubs' - huge buildings with bars, restaurants, ball rooms, bowling greens and even tennis courts - sprung up in the new suburbs. When Nevile said "if I can cure drunkenness in the country in my time, that will satisfy me" he was talking business, not morality.

The programme also looks at the first attempts at a sociology of the pub, and what people wanted from it.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

The fall in consumption - which had started during the First World War - continued throughout the decade, and political attention focused on why.

This was when the Labour Party formed its first governments, and there were powerful socialist voices arguing for a full nationalisation of the drinks industry.

This could be a route to weaning the working classes away from a product that was "a powerful weapon in the hands of the exploiters".

George Bernard Shaw called liquor "a chloroform that allows the poor to endure the painful operation of living".

But while governments chose to sit on the fence during the 1920s, the brewing industry got busy.

Led by people like Ernest Nevile, the head of Whitbread's, they set about designing and building a new type of pub - one that would attract a new middle class clientele.

"The presence in public houses of people who will not tolerate insobriety makes excess unfashionable".

What were called 'improved pubs' - huge buildings with bars, restaurants, ball rooms, bowling greens and even tennis courts - sprung up in the new suburbs.

When Nevile said "if I can cure drunkenness in the country in my time, that will satisfy me" he was talking business, not morality.

Mark Whitaker explores the 'improved pub' movement of the 1920s.

09The Doctors Take Over2010072920130429 (BBC7)

A Ministry of Health Report in 1956 referred to heavy drinking as something that had been an issue in Britain "at times in the 18th and 19th century". In 1961 the Home Secretary RA Butler confidently told the Commons that "public drunkenness is not a problem". But such denial couldn't last long.

As part of his series on the politics of alcohol in Britain, Mark Whitaker focuses on the decision by government in 1962 to build specialist alcoholic treatment units around the country. It was called "the first official recognition of alcoholism as an illness which should be the responsibility of doctors", and was an acknowledgement that drinking was on the increase. This period saw the first specific warnings about teenage drinking.

But controversies followed. Several Regional Hospital Boards were reluctant to invest in the new units; research suggested that in-patient treatment was not necessarily the most effective; and the strategy was attacked for being of limited value to those most in need of help - the unemployed meths drinkers of 'Skid Rows' in the major cities.

This was when the pioneering psychiatrist Griffith Edwards first proposed his methods for tackling drunkenness as a public health issue, based on its being recognised as a community-wide problem. Edwards contributes to the programme, while actors read documents from the 1960s.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

A Ministry of Health Report in 1956 referred to heavy drinking as something that had been an issue in Britain "at times in the 18th and 19th century".

In 1961 the Home Secretary RA Butler confidently told the Commons that "public drunkenness is not a problem".

But such denial couldn't last long.

As part of his series on the politics of alcohol in Britain, Mark Whitaker focuses on the decision by government in 1962 to build specialist alcoholic treatment units around the country.

It was called "the first official recognition of alcoholism as an illness which should be the responsibility of doctors", and was an acknowledgement that drinking was on the increase.

This period saw the first specific warnings about teenage drinking.

But controversies followed.

Several Regional Hospital Boards were reluctant to invest in the new units; research suggested that in-patient treatment was not necessarily the most effective; and the strategy was attacked for being of limited value to those most in need of help - the unemployed meths drinkers of 'Skid Rows' in the major cities.

This was when the pioneering psychiatrist Griffith Edwards first proposed his methods for tackling drunkenness as a public health issue, based on its being recognised as a community-wide problem.

Edwards contributes to the programme, while actors read documents from the 1960s.

How and why the NHS embarked on the hospital treatment of alcoholics in the 1960s.

09The Doctors Take Over2010072920130429 (BBC7)

A Ministry of Health Report in 1956 referred to heavy drinking as something that had been an issue in Britain "at times in the 18th and 19th century". In 1961 the Home Secretary RA Butler confidently told the Commons that "public drunkenness is not a problem". But such denial couldn't last long.

As part of his series on the politics of alcohol in Britain, Mark Whitaker focuses on the decision by government in 1962 to build specialist alcoholic treatment units around the country. It was called "the first official recognition of alcoholism as an illness which should be the responsibility of doctors", and was an acknowledgement that drinking was on the increase. This period saw the first specific warnings about teenage drinking.

But controversies followed. Several Regional Hospital Boards were reluctant to invest in the new units; research suggested that in-patient treatment was not necessarily the most effective; and the strategy was attacked for being of limited value to those most in need of help - the unemployed meths drinkers of 'Skid Rows' in the major cities.

This was when the pioneering psychiatrist Griffith Edwards first proposed his methods for tackling drunkenness as a public health issue, based on its being recognised as a community-wide problem. Edwards contributes to the programme, while actors read documents from the 1960s.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

A Ministry of Health Report in 1956 referred to heavy drinking as something that had been an issue in Britain "at times in the 18th and 19th century".

In 1961 the Home Secretary RA Butler confidently told the Commons that "public drunkenness is not a problem".

But such denial couldn't last long.

As part of his series on the politics of alcohol in Britain, Mark Whitaker focuses on the decision by government in 1962 to build specialist alcoholic treatment units around the country.

It was called "the first official recognition of alcoholism as an illness which should be the responsibility of doctors", and was an acknowledgement that drinking was on the increase.

This period saw the first specific warnings about teenage drinking.

But controversies followed.

Several Regional Hospital Boards were reluctant to invest in the new units; research suggested that in-patient treatment was not necessarily the most effective; and the strategy was attacked for being of limited value to those most in need of help - the unemployed meths drinkers of 'Skid Rows' in the major cities.

This was when the pioneering psychiatrist Griffith Edwards first proposed his methods for tackling drunkenness as a public health issue, based on its being recognised as a community-wide problem.

Edwards contributes to the programme, while actors read documents from the 1960s.

How and why the NHS embarked on the hospital treatment of alcoholics in the 1960s.

10 LASTThe Drink Question: Past And Present2010073020130430 (BBC7)

In the last decade or so Britain has experienced renewed social and political panic over the consequences of excessive drinking, and the concept of 'alcohol related harms' has entered the language. A coherent policy community has developed, and research has multiplied, around questions of alcohol control. But governments have seemingly been reluctant to listen.

Mark Whitaker concludes his look at the politics of alcohol since the 17th century by examining New Labour's Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy of 2004, and related relaxation of the licensing system.

Whitaker interviews the historians whose work has informed his own research, and asks them how they think the past can or should inform present policy. He talks to James Nicholls, Virginia Berridge, John Greenaway and Betsy Thom. They address questions about why the 'Drink Question' has been defined differently at different times; why the liquor industry has been so politically powerful; why the temperance movement lasted so long but seemingly achieved so little; and why alcoholism and drunkenness have posed distinct policy challenges.

Above all, they reflect on the complexity of alcohol as a commodity, and on why legislating about it has been, and remains, remarkably difficult.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

In the last decade or so Britain has experienced renewed social and political panic over the consequences of excessive drinking, and the concept of 'alcohol related harms' has entered the language.

A coherent policy community has developed, and research has multiplied, around questions of alcohol control.

But governments have seemingly been reluctant to listen.

Whitaker interviews the historians whose work has informed his own research, and asks them how they think the past can or should inform present policy.

He talks to James Nicholls, Virginia Berridge, John Greenaway and Betsy Thom.

They address questions about why the 'Drink Question' has been defined differently at different times; why the liquor industry has been so politically powerful; why the temperance movement lasted so long but seemingly achieved so little; and why alcoholism and drunkenness have posed distinct policy challenges.

Mark Whitaker asks leading historians how the past can inform present alcohol policy.

10 LASTThe Drink Question: Past And Present2010073020130430 (BBC7)

In the last decade or so Britain has experienced renewed social and political panic over the consequences of excessive drinking, and the concept of 'alcohol related harms' has entered the language. A coherent policy community has developed, and research has multiplied, around questions of alcohol control. But governments have seemingly been reluctant to listen.

Mark Whitaker concludes his look at the politics of alcohol since the 17th century by examining New Labour's Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy of 2004, and related relaxation of the licensing system.

Whitaker interviews the historians whose work has informed his own research, and asks them how they think the past can or should inform present policy. He talks to James Nicholls, Virginia Berridge, John Greenaway and Betsy Thom. They address questions about why the 'Drink Question' has been defined differently at different times; why the liquor industry has been so politically powerful; why the temperance movement lasted so long but seemingly achieved so little; and why alcoholism and drunkenness have posed distinct policy challenges.

Above all, they reflect on the complexity of alcohol as a commodity, and on why legislating about it has been, and remains, remarkably difficult.

Producer: Mark Whitaker

A Square Dog production for BBC Radio 4.

In the last decade or so Britain has experienced renewed social and political panic over the consequences of excessive drinking, and the concept of 'alcohol related harms' has entered the language.

A coherent policy community has developed, and research has multiplied, around questions of alcohol control.

But governments have seemingly been reluctant to listen.

Whitaker interviews the historians whose work has informed his own research, and asks them how they think the past can or should inform present policy.

He talks to James Nicholls, Virginia Berridge, John Greenaway and Betsy Thom.

They address questions about why the 'Drink Question' has been defined differently at different times; why the liquor industry has been so politically powerful; why the temperance movement lasted so long but seemingly achieved so little; and why alcoholism and drunkenness have posed distinct policy challenges.

Mark Whitaker asks leading historians how the past can inform present alcohol policy.