Skip to main content

Alcohol and Temperance

ALCOHOL AND TEMPERANCE

George Snow

Alcohol has played an important role in human society since the accidental discovery of the effects of ethyl alcohol—the product of the natural fermentation of honey or fruit. The agricultural development and domestication of grape stock—viticulture—resulted in wines that were considered to have, in addition to other qualities, salutary medicinal benefits. The agricultural revolution that led to the production of wines also led to the manufacture and consumption of beer—a beverage relying on the fermentation of large amounts of starchy grain.

ALCOHOL IN EARLY SOCIETY

Wines and beers of varying strengths and description became the primary beverages among European populations confronted with unpotable drinking water, since the antiseptic power of alcohol, along with the natural acidity of wine and beer, killed many pathogens in the questionable water. In addition to these salutary properties, wine especially acquired a reputation as a means of settling the stomach, as a prophylactic in the prevention of colds, and as an antiseptic in the cleansing of wounds. Consumption of alcoholic beverages also temporarily altered behavior—elating and gladdening some, enhancing the feeling of physical strength of others, promoting camaraderie and fellowship for many more, and lowering personal and social inhibitions for all. These attributes of alcohol led churches throughout Europe to inveigh against its excessive consumption—that is, drunkenness (ivrognerie, Trunksucht, p'ianstvo, and borrachera in French, German, Russian, and Spanish, respectively)—from the Middle Ages on. All of this was in spite of the fact that wine was central in the celebration of the Eucharist and that in European climates conducive to viticulture, the church frequently operated the biggest and best vineyards at a considerable profit.

By the Renaissance the process of distillation to produce spirits—a process invented earlier by the Arabs—had gradually spread first to Italy and then to northern Europe, reaching the extreme north and northeast—Scandinavia and Muscovy—by the mid–fifteenth century. The powerful spirituous beverages aquavit and vodka—names that derive from the word "water" in Scandinavian languages and Russian, respectively—resulted from a process that used a boiling water–alcohol mixture to derive a condensation with a higher alcohol content than that of the starting liquid. Distilled alcoholic beverages could pretend neither to nourishment nor to low alcohol content—but they became widely popular in some areas of Europe (for example, Russia), where they replaced wine and beer as the preferred beverages in daily life and in the celebration of church holidays and ceremonial occasions, such as births, christenings and baptisms, marriages, deaths, and wakes. Distilled beverages did not carry the sacral associations of wine, which remained the chief potable of Catholic countries, such as France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. But the increasing availability and strength of distilled alcoholic beverages in the post-Reformation period produced seemingly higher levels of drunkenness and the accompanying official concerns.

The predominantly rural and agrarian nature of most early modern European societies did not make a social problem of alcohol consumption—whether in the form of beer, wine, or distilled spirits. In the agricultural way of life the sense of time, the ebb and flow of seasonal activity, the compulsion to work, and the consumption of intoxicants were all of a kind of "natural" process. That is, the line between work and life was blurred, permitting a greater intermingling of labor and social intercourse in which drinking played an important role and did not seriously inhibit the performance of tasks central to agricultural production. Then, too, in eastern Europe, and particularly in Russia, a drink of vodka was both a ceremonial and an official confirmation of an agreement or a bargain in rural villages, and village work parties were frequently paid on this basis, a natural consequence of undermonetized economies. Consequently, criticism of alcohol consumption remained muted and was only expressed when consumption reached excessive levels. Many homilies were, therefore, directed against the practice of drinking to get drunk.

Other subterranean rumblings against excessive alcohol consumption during this period came from moralists disturbed by the spread of distilled spirits—with the matter betraying national animosities: the French accused the Italians of introducing distilling techniques learned from the Arabs, the Germans accused the French of the same thing, and the English claimed that their soldiers had been introduced to gin drinking in Holland during the wars of the sixteenth century. Behind all of these concerns was the fact that strong liquor was being drunk everywhere in Europe by the eve of the Enlightenment, and virtually every country, using the same basic techniques and custom-built still, had begun to fashion its own indigenous beverage: Scotch among the Scots, Branntwein and schnapps among the Germans; and arrack and raki, made with rice from the Far East, in the western Mediterranean.

Economics of alcohol. As consumption of alcohol in its various forms became more widespread and popular in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, European governments saw its manufacture, distribution, and sale as potential sources of revenue—both direct and indirect. Consequently, the English Parliament required licenses of alehouses (1552), Boris Godunov's Muscovite government (1598–1605) taxed the sale of vodka by the kabaki (taverns), and the French King Louis XIV (1638–1715) taxed the sale of eaux-de-vie sold by cabarets at the same level as wine. An inestimably valuable source of indirect taxation that served a redistributive function, the direct or indirect sale of alcoholic beverages by the state legitimated their consumption in some quarters. In many cases, this association made bars and taverns a focus of attention for both tax inspectors and, later, temperance reformers. In some other cases, for example in Russia, it made the government itself the target of temperance critics.

Alcohol consumption as a moral issue. Although it was recognized that alcoholic beverages differed in strength, there was little widespread perception of their heavy consumption as either a medical or a social problem. Indeed, alcohol consumption was for a long while seen as a moral problem. In England the respectability of places for the retail sale of some alcoholic beverages increased during the Restoration. A similar lack of concern existed in France during this period, while in Russia the redistributive nature of alcohol sales was institutionalized: the kabaki became a state monopoly, a status recognized by the Ulozhenie (legal code) of 1649.

By the eighteenth century, however, leading elements in England, the Germanies, and France had begun to express concern about alcohol abuse—although for different reasons and on different bases. The concern reflected in William Hogarth's engravings and in Wesleyan religious sensibilities in England and the growing medical awareness of alcohol's debilitating effects in the Germanies were directed against distilled alcoholic beverages. Beer and wine continued to be viewed as "natural" and therefore less harmful than the products of distillation. This distinction remained a basic feature of much temperance thought to the beginning of the twentieth century. Because wine was for a long time the main alcoholic beverage consumed by Frenchmen, concern with alcohol abuse was slow to develop in France. But by the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century and with the increased appearance of distilled alcoholic beverages, French and German physicians were coming to see the excessive consumption of alcohol as a public-health problem.


Alcohol consumption as a health issue. The concern about alcohol consumption as a public-health problem was first expressed in early-nineteenth-century England when the term "delirium tremens" was used by the physician Thomas Sutton to describe the violent restlessness, hallucinations, and other phenomena associated with prolonged alcohol abuse. During this same period physicians of diverse nationality published studies of the effects of alcohol abuse on the liver. Not a few of them posited that such abuse was a form of disease, a contention that led to the emergence of the disease model that later played so important a role in European temperance movements and eventually replaced the moral paradigm. Associated with this model was the assumption that it was a degenerative disease not only for the drinker but for his or her progeny as well—an assumption that played a significant role in late-nineteenth-century racial degeneration theories and in some temperance literature. Knowledge about the effects of alcohol on the human body was, in any event, scattered and fragmentary, varying from country to country.

This situation was remedied by the synthesizing work of the great Swedish physiologist and researcher Magnus Huss (1807–1890). Huss's contribution to the emerging concern about alcohol abuse and the myriad physical problems associated with it was the product of his extensive familiarity with international literature on the subject plus his own wide travels and personal observations, as a physician in Swedish hospitals, of the ravages of drink among the poor. All of these elements came together in his great work Alcoholismus chronicus (1849), originally written in his native Swedish and translated three years later into German. Huss's neologism "alcoholism" not only was succinct but followed common scientific usage in applying the suffix "-ism" when describing a disease. He systematically classified the physiological and psychological changes attributable to excessive, long-term alcohol consumption, as described by the English physician Wilfred Batten Lewis Trotter and clinicians like the German Fuchs and the American Benjamin Rush. Rush had been among the first to describe chronic drunkenness as a disease, and one that was implicated in other diseases—including epilepsy.

Huss's work provided an international framework for analysis and diagnosis: the enemy now had a name and a symptomatology—tools that were invaluable to temperance proponents throughout Europe, despite Huss's own focus on the harmfulness of distilled alcoholic beverages and his acceptance of the naturalness of fermented ones. Huss's work also supported the general apprehension that the consequences of alcohol abuse led ineluctably to race degeneration. Such theories of alcohol-created degeneration later found their fullest expression in the mid-century clinical works of the Frenchmen Bénédict Morel and Valentin Magnan—theories that influenced Émile Zola's widely read Rougon-Macquart novels and later influenced middle-class intellectuals and reformers devoted to the temperance cause.

THE SOCIAL CONTEXT FOR CONCERNS ABOUT ALCOHOL ABUSE

The rise of medical concern about alcohol abuse was contemporaneous, or nearly so, with two major social phenomena. One was the great industrial upsurge during this period, which drew a large labor force to rapidly developing towns and cities to work in mills, foundries, and factories. Attendant on the growth of this urban labor force was a middle- and upper-class apprehension about these laborers' proclivity for strong drink. This proclivity and the working classes' relative poverty, substandard living conditions, and high levels of violence and crime constituted a witches' brew that alternately frightened and appalled polite, middle-class society from England to Russia. Although the members of society reacting to excessive alcohol consumption among the working classes were largely merchants; professionals, such as physicians, lawyers, teachers; and clergy—what has been described as civil society—and people from the privileged classes, small artisans and even industrial workers themselves also reacted to alcoholism, often associating abstinence from strong drink with self-improvement. Factory, mill, and foundry owners were also concerned about workers' proclivity to abuse alcohol, especially because agrarian patterns of alcohol use imported into the more rigid time and production constraints of industrial capitalism resulted in damaged machinery, delayed production, and general financial loss.

European intellectuals and political leaders viewed the alcohol issue in a broader social and political context. Friedrich Engels posited a direct relationship between industrial capitalism and alcoholism, attributing workers' drinking problems to the physical demands of their working conditions and the pollution of their environment by industry—in short, he argued that alcoholism was merely an epiphenomenon and that capitalism was the real culprit. Karl Marx was more than a little hostile to temperance both as a concept and as a movement. For him places such as English gin shops epitomized the essence of capitalist economic relations and were rightly the only Sunday pleasures of the people. Hence, he dismissed "economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organizers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, and hole-and-corner reformers of every kind" as coteries of the bourgeoisie. Similarly, the German Social Democratic leader Karl Kautsky emphasized the importance of the tavern as a gathering place for workers to discuss politics and as a center for German workers' social network, while the Russian I. G. Pryzhov in Istoriia kabakov v Rossii (A history of taverns in Russia) claimed the same function for his country's drinking places. Yet Marx also decried drunkenness, along with prostitution and usury, as "the interest charged by the bourgeois against the vices of ruined capitalism." Little wonder, then, that European socialists were split into two camps over the issue: those who agreed with Kautsky, and those who followed the Belgian socialist Émile Vandervelde, who preached total abstinence as a means by which the worker could escape an unjust and exploitative system. Militant Social Democrats during Russia's prewar revolutionary period continued this latter tradition, viewing total abstinence from the coils of "the green serpent" of alcohol abuse as a form of the spartan self-denial and discipline demanded of the revolutionary vanguard.

The second social phenomenon contemporaneous with and, to some extent, intimately connected with increased medical concern was the emergence of a civil society in various European states. Developing models of the formation of middle-class attitudes, sensibilities, and awareness, modern social historians see the activity of this civil society as extending along a continuum from promotion of private-property rights and the rule of law, to movements for professionalization, to the development of a public sphere independent of the state. In short, this society constituted a network of voluntary associations that served as a major means by which the bourgeoisie attempted not only to set the tone in the material and cultural spheres but increasingly to influence public policy on a host of issues. These issues included public health, education, and penology. A civil society further implies a critical mass of educated individuals, professional societies, and cultural organizations, all of which established intermediate identities between the family and the state. This was, then, the promotion of activity for the public good rather than for private gain, the practical and purposive activity of citizens rather than subjects.

EARLY TEMPERANCE EFFORTS

The earliest recorded temperance group in Europe was established in Sweden in 1818 as a result of the efforts of the Lutheran clergy. This temperance effort was directed against the consumption of schnapps and continued to condone the moderate consumption of wine and beer. Only later in the century did the concept of temperance divide along lines advocating moderate consumption or total abstinence, or teetotalism. This division came to characterize virtually every European temperance movement save one—the German—before World War I. The Lutheran clergy was also responsible for the earliest temperance efforts in the Russian Empire—in the Baltic provinces in the 1830s.

In England and Russia organizations less formal than the government took the lead in fostering temperance. In England parliamentary legislation attempted to combat alcohol abuse by introducing laws that would permit the freer licensing of drink shops (which, proponents believed, would end the monopolistic practices that promoted excessive alcohol consumption). Such legislative efforts were grounded in the belief that government regulation of drinking places fostered adulteration, high prices, smuggling, and drunkenness. Ending monopolies and introducing free licensing would, advocates believed, end these evils as well as eliminate the artificial attractions of drink that stemmed from government favor. The Beer Act, which capped a decade devoted to this kind of approach, thus extended the free-market principle to the sale of drink, with the anticipation that the lower price of beer under this new system would encourage Englishmen to drink it instead of gin. It was thus yet another variation of the "pure" alcoholic beverage versus distilled alcoholic beverage debate.

In Russia the same reasoning lay behind the growing criticism of the government's exploitation of the vodka tax farm (otkup). However, the Russian government was caught in a dilemma: it opposed efforts by the Lutheran clergy in the Baltic provinces, but at the same time its officials were concerned about increased levels of alcohol consumption—especially of the non-taxed homemade vodka (samogon) sold in unlicensed speakeasies (korchmy). The government addressed the issue not only of abuse but of the illicit sale and consequent adulteration of vodka by studying the related issues in a series of commissions. Unlike the English, however, these bodies suggested greater official regulation of the drink trade by controlling, among other things, its location near schools and public buildings, restricting the size of licensed kabaki, and increasing the price of vodka to make it less affordable to the masses. France, in contradistinction to England and Russia, increased the number of officials overseeing the cafés.

MORE FORMALIZED TEMPERANCE EFFORTS

True temperance movements—that is, voluntary organizations formed by essentially private members of society—began in England and Germany only in the 1830s and 1840s, in France in the 1870s, and in Russia in the late 1880s and 1890s.

While not the first to organize temperance groups, England witnessed the most rapid development of quite diverse organizations—many of which inspired efforts in other countries. Independent societies were among the first of these groups, followed by national organizations—the National Temperance Society in 1842 (later the National Temperance League) and the British Association for the Promotion of Temperance in 1835 (later the British Temperance League). In England these organizations advocated teetotalism—a position not popular in other European states. Over the decades other groups were formed: workers' associations, fraternal temperance orders—including the Order of Good Templars (an import from the United States)—denominational temperance societies, and women's temperance associations. England also had specialized societies for, among others, soldiers and sailors—two groups that had historically been given alcoholic beverages to reward them for performance in the field or to warm and fortify them, out of a belief in alcohol's restorative and reinvigorating properties.

The English temperance model greatly influenced the development of temperance groups in Russia in the 1890s. Norman Kerr's Inebriety: Its Etiology, Pathology, Treatment, and Jurisprudence (1888) was one of the earliest treatises on the subject of temperance to be translated into Russian, although the works of German and French scientists and clinicians were ultimately the most widely circulated. There were significant differences of course. While there had been antialcohol protests in rural Russia in the period 1859–1861, they were directed less toward moderation or total abstinence than toward the high cost and low quality of vodka sold by tavern keepers under the otkup. Some of this protest was clearly anti-Semitic—directed against Jewish tavern keepers and illicit drink sellers more often than against gentile ones.

The transition from the tax farm to an excise system in the 1880s helped stimulate a true temperance consciousness among Russian public-health physicians, lawyers, and other professionals. While on the surface directed against the new system for increasing drinking and alcohol abuse among the urban working class, much of the sentiment against the excise originated with officials and intellectuals who found introducing entrepreneurship into the drink trade an unwanted form of competition. Clerical involvement was restricted until the late 1880s due to Orthodox Church officials' disapproval of temperance efforts. With the introduction of the state vodka monopoly in 1894, however, temperance in Russia was officially recognized and significantly boosted, and the number of groups championing the cause grew exponentially. This included state-sponsored organizations—the Guardianships of Popular Sobriety.

The efforts of all these groups in Russia were similar in tone and form to those in England: basic literacy, education, skill training, entertainment, libraries, reading rooms, encouragement of tea consumption as an alternative to alcohol, and, above all, propaganda on the debilitating economic, physical, and mental consequences of alcohol consumption. The Russian movement also became fully committed to the disease model of alcoholism and advocated creating specialized institutions for the treatment instead of punishment of alcoholics. Like English and French groups, Russian temperance organizations published journals, newspapers, and pamphlets devoted to educating people on the harm of alcohol consumption. Unlike in England, church temperance organizations were held at arm's length by others in the movement, and legislative support for temperance became possible only with the third state Duma after 1907.

Germany experienced many of the same tensions as England and Russia. The early German temperance movement (1830s and 1840s) insisted on the moderate consumption of beer and wine and the avoidance of distilled liquors. But teetotalism made little headway. The German movement was characterized by the same religious and moralistic features as denominational temperance activity in England and as some local parish activity in Russia. As in England and Russia, these early groups required adherents to take a vow renouncing spirits. However, German temperance underwent a sea change after mid-century and by the mid-1880s had come, in the form of the German Association for the Prevention of Alcohol Abuse (DMVG), to emphasize a more scientific approach. This included devoting attention to the medical and treatment aspects of alcoholism and lobbying the state for changes in German licensing laws as well as for laws that would permit the legal, institutional treatment of alcohol abusers. Because of the central importance that German socialists gave to beer halls as social and political gathering places for workers, the DMVG stressed moderation only. The Good Templars did not, therefore, enjoy a warm response among German socialists.

France represents the final example of temperance in a major European state. As with most European societies, drinking in general—and the consumption of wine in particular—had traditionally been seen as a source of refreshment as well as a symbol of a bond. Hence a drink was often a means of sealing a business agreement. However, as early as the eighteenth century, the cabarets were seen as contributing to heightened levels of drunkenness and as places for idlers. As in Germany, distinctions were made between more "natural" alcoholic beverages and the stronger, physically more harmful eaux-de-vie. Added to this mix was the perception, so ably expressed by Honoré de Balzac, that the cafés selling alcoholic beverages were, in and of themselves, "parliaments of the people." Thus, following the revolutionary era, both republican and imperial French governments so feared this aspect of drinking places that they established special arms of the law to watch over them in the countryside, villages, and small towns.

As in other European countries, the increasing concern of the bourgeoisie, public-health officials, and the medical profession with alcoholism among urban workers was notable in France. Moreover, in France as elsewhere in Europe, industrialized distillation made for a deadly combination of large quantities and low prices. Thus in France, too, consumption levels increased markedly in the course of the nineteenth century. Wine was increasingly replaced by beer and cognac and, in the final quarter of the century, by the deadly absinthe. Yet for all this, not until 1872 was the first voluntary temperance organization—the Association contre l'Abus des Boissons Alcooliques—formed in France.

In the last decades of the nineteenth century French temperance groups—although few in number and small in membership compared with England—sponsored legislative efforts to control alcohol production and decrease alcoholism. The French groups, while consciously avoiding a teetotal position, sponsored the same family-oriented activities and entertainments as the British and, similar to the Russian movement, were anxious about worker housing as a causal nexus for alcohol abuse. Worker temperance organizations also enjoyed some popularity in France, indeed to a much greater extent than in Russia because in France a nationwide worker organization—the Federation of Anti-Alcohol Workers (FOA)—was formed in 1911, whereas in Russia the tsarist government's restrictive policies in the years before World War I precluded formation of such a group.

Aside from the major nations of Europe, only Sweden attempted and, to some extent, succeeded in combating both the liquor traffic in general and the rising levels of alcohol abuse in particular through the Gothenburg System of 1865. This system involved creating limited-dividend corporations for the manufacture and sale of drink and local monopolies for the retail sale of brandies; in addition, there was a rationing of the population, and on-premise consumption of alcoholic beverages was prohibited except in eating places. Only Russia's vodka monopoly attempted to achieve some of these effects—for example, by attempting to make the state vodka shops monopolies for the sale of drink by the bottle for off-premises consumption but allowing its consumption by the glass in first-class restaurants, some taverns, and the dining rooms of railway stations. Sweden's farreaching efforts were not replicated in most European states, however. The Gothenburg System's major shortcoming was its inability to control the importation of spirits and the sale of beer and wine. Not until 1919 did Sweden reform the system further by attempting to eliminate private profit from every branch of the manufacture and sale of alcohol.

INTERNATIONAL TEMPERANCE EFFORTS

What pulled all of these disparate national temperance efforts together was the International Congress against Alcoholism held in various European capitals from the 1880s up to the eve of World War I. These gatherings—increasingly teetotal in spirit and content—addressed the burning issues of the movement: alcoholism as disease; the nature, scope, and desirability of institutional centers exclusively for the treatment of alcoholism; and the regimens to be followed in such centers, including the increasingly popular use of hypnotism as a therapeutic measure. These assemblies also addressed issues such as the relation between alcohol abuse and public-health problems and social issues. Tuberculosis and epilepsy were among the myriad ailments associated directly or indirectly with alcohol abuse. Moreover, social issues such as wage levels, housing conditions, crime, and the workplace environment—including conditions in factories—also preoccupied the delegates to these gatherings.

Still, by the eve of World War I, for all these efforts, anomalies persisted. In France, for example, the continued popularity and productivity of homemade alcoholic beverages—the bouilleurs de cru—and in Russia the troublesome problems of home manufacture and illicit sale of home-manufactured alcoholic beverages—particularly vodka—remained unsolved. Both countries also failed to rally women to their temperance causes. In other European countries and in the United States, women were seen as the natural allies of temperance—because they had not yet acquired the bad habit of drinking and because patriarchal views held that they were either made of nobler stuff than men or less influenced by alcohol due to physical or mental inferiority. Despite the evidence from the United States and England, temperance groups in France and Russia failed to attract large numbers of women and had only a handful of women temperance leaders.

The outbreak of World War I was seen as an occasion to make a new, alcohol-free beginning. But very little action was taken to restrict access to alcoholic beverages. Except, that is, in Russia, where the tsarist government temporarily prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages during mobilization (to avoid the drunken excesses witnessed during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, when alcohol was readily available to newly mobilized troops) and then totally prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages for the duration of the war. There were even intimations that this policy would be made "perpetual."

TEMPERANCE AFTER WORLD WAR I

The Russian experiment was not successful, and home brewing, cases of alcohol poisoning, and liquor riots soon appeared. Antialcohol and temperance propaganda was largely ignored and, hence, unsuccessful in both France and England as well. With the war's end, in the 1920s the state became increasingly involved in the matter of alcoholism and temperance, an approach that prevailed for the remainder of the century.

In Russia the October Revolution initially carried a promise of reform in the alcohol problems of the previous centuries by a group philosophically opposed to alcoholism on the basis of marxist theory. Not only was abstention viewed as "heroic" by many worker-Bolsheviks, but the Communist Party took the position that alcohol abuse had been an epiphenomenon of the deep-seated contradictions of capitalism. Declaring war on alcoholism as a social disease, with V. I. Lenin labeling it a plague of the petite bourgeoisie, the new Communist state announced that the proletariat would root it out through the propagation of the "Communist ideal." Thus, sweeping measures were enacted to combat and eliminate drinking: distillers were shut down; inebriates were declared subject to arrest and prosecution; the death penalty was prescribed for members of the Red Army who abused alcohol; "narcological dispensaries" were organized to treat alcoholics; and prison terms of at least ten years were mandated for the illegal manufacture of alcoholic beverages—especially samogon. The new government also began publishing a monthly temperance journal, Trezvost' i kul'tura (Sobriety and culture), to spearhead the drive for sobriety and to promote demonstrations in favor of it and the formation of temperance societies. Yet these efforts were more Potemkin villages, and the societies were never independent or effective. The narcological dispensaries in Moscow reported an increasing annual turnover of patients, leading one early Soviet alcohol researcher to calculate an alcoholism rate of thirty per one thousand population for the city and more than one million chronic alcoholics in the nation.

In the 1930s fiscal imperatives led Joseph Stalin to increase production of alcohol and to control its sale—a classic redistributive method of the tsarist period. Yet the ranks of heavy drinkers did not increase during this decade despite the stresses of urbanization, industrialization, repression, and fear. Rather, alcohol consumption—and, one must assume, alcoholism—slowed both because the standard of living could not accommodate the regular purchase of alcoholic beverages and because the loss of their agricultural products slowed the peasants' production of samogon. There was, too, the additional fear that "decadent behavior" such as heavy drinking could lead to incarceration or worse. The other side of the coin, however, was Stalin's wartime return to the practice of issuing a daily ration of vodka to soldiers. But with war's end, alcohol consumption and attendant alcoholism rose in Soviet society in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. One scholar of the phenomenon calculated that in the Russian Federation alone, 11.3 percent of the population aged fifteen and older were alcoholics. The data for this period produced by Western scholars were largely inferential, however, since the Soviet Union continued to regard such figures as tantamount to state secrets.

Text Not Available

With the antialcohol campaign launched initially by Yuri Andropov and continued by Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s, Western scholars saw the first real public discussion of alcoholism and temperance in the Soviet Union since the 1920s. Multifaceted in its conception and calling for the creation of a state temperance society, the campaign claimed by late in the decade significant decreases in alcoholism and its associated problems. Beneath the surface, however, the manufacture of samogon had soared, and to avoid the state's strictures on hours of sale and quantity of bottles allowed for per capita purchase, the public had turned to strong, often poisonous substitutes, such as antifreeze and shoe polish. Consequently, this great state temperance campaign died with a whimper not too long before the collapse of the state that sponsored it.

France experienced many of the same problems as the other European nations after World War I. During the war alcohol consumption declined, but following the restoration of peace, production and consumption rose markedly, as did alcoholism. Indeed, the few antialcohol barriers raised during the war were removed, government intervention was discouraged, and rates of consumption and alcoholism rose steadily into the late 1930s. Temperance simply was neither popular nor economically desirable. Then, too, American Prohibition smacked too much of puritanical moralism to many Frenchmen. Only the Family Code of 1939 and its creation of the Haute Comité sur la Population represented any effort to restrict alcohol consumption.

Real declines in alcoholism in France were made possible only by World War II, which, with defeat and occupation by the Germans, ended the laissez-faire policies with respect to alcohol production and consumption. What the Vichy government started was continued in the post–World War II period by the Fourth and Fifth Republics—that is, extensive state involvement in antialcoholism and temperance. In this, it is much like—albeit more effective than—the Soviet example. Unlike the Soviet Union, however, there was a revival and extension of legitimate private antialcohol groups. The state also became convinced, through the research of Sully Ledermann, that the greater the level of alcohol consumption in a society, the greater the amount of alcohol-related harm. With the Fourth and Fifth Republics' assumption of responsibility for medical care and rational economic

TABLE 2
PER CAPITA CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL OF ALL VARIETIES (IN LITERS PER CAPITA OF 100 PERCENT ALCOHOL) FOR SELECT EUROPEAN STATES, 1990–1996
 1990 1993 1994 1995 1996
* Figures for the Federal Republic only
The International Order of Good Templars
Denmark9.89.910.010.110.3
Finland7.86.86.66.46.3
France12.612.311.811.912.1
Germany11.7*11.811.511.210.8
Sweden5.86.06.15.75.2
United Kingdom7.67.17.37.07.2
Norway4.13.83.83.94.0
Russia5.55.35.25.2

planning, then, the state increasingly viewed alcoholism as a disease with both societal and economic consequences for which the state had responsibility. This approach was perfectly consonant with the social philosophy of the so-called welfare state of other European countries after 1945. Consequently, a series of enactments provided impetus for a state antialcohol campaign mandating treatment, compulsory blood tests for criminals to measure blood alcohol levels, and measures against drunk driving—many of which remained in effect in the 1990s.

Like the Soviet Union and France, Scandinavian countries involved the state in antialcohol efforts. Finland, for example, repealed prohibition in the early 1930s but established ALKO to control the production of and trade in alcoholic beverages. ALKO was also charged with operating retail stores for spirits, wine, long drinks (spirits mixed with soft drinks), and strong beer. Unlike the unrealistic U.S. goal of total prohibition, Finland, like Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, strove from 1918 to the 1990s to reduce the detrimental effects of alcohol use by steering consumption and habits in a "healthy" direction—a goal reminiscent of both the prerevolutionary tsarist alcohol policy and the Gothenburg System. Finnish municipalities, like those in Sweden, are obliged to provide services for people with substance-abuse and related problems. Moreover, many hospitals in Finland have detoxification units operating as part of the national health-care system. Sweden began dealing with detoxification in the late 1940s by creating outpatient clinics for alcoholics. Both states legislated close interaction between nongovernmental organizations, municipal governments, and essentially private treatment centers in the struggle with alcoholism, with Sweden providing such services under the auspices of its Social Services Act of 1982. Sweden and Finland, like Denmark and Norway, have introduced strict limitations on alcohol advertising as part of an ongoing preventive approach.

The German flirtation with antialcoholism and temperance in the years after World War I displayed the same ambivalence as in the period before 1914. High levels of consumption and abuse characterized the Weimar years. The Great Depression had the same flattening effect on alcohol consumption and alcoholism in Germany as it did elsewhere in Europe. Further, there was no "official" antialcohol posture adopted in the period 1933–1945, despite Hitler's well-known abstemiousness—that is, with the exception of those German physicians who, mirroring the early racial degeneration temperance approaches of the nineteenth century, saw alcohol abuse as a factor undermining Aryan racial purity. The division of Germany into the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany from 1945 to 1990 makes generalization difficult, but alcohol consumption was the most widespread chronic disorder even after reunification. Nonetheless, several provinces set up mass-media campaigns focusing on sobriety in specific situations. But of all the European nations, Germany remained behind in both governmental and private temperance efforts at the end of the twentieth century.

Britain experimented with prohibition early in World War I, when David Lloyd George was chancellor of the exchequer, but ultimately settled for the creation of the Liquor Control Board—which closed pubs in the mornings, afternoons, and early at night, a practice that survived in attenuated form until the 1990s. Scotland, however, did introduce local option even before the outbreak of war in 1914. Despite this, a broad array of church-based and secular temperance organizations remained active into the 1920s, their efforts aided by the inevitable drop in consumption during the Great Depression. Only after 1945 and the achievement of a parliamentary majority by the Labor Party, with its wide-ranging program of welfare and public-health services, did alcoholism and measures for its treatment or eradication become concerns of the state—again, an approach perfectly consonant with other European states of the time.

Recovery from the devastation of World War II and growing prosperity in Britain produced increased levels of alcohol consumption—which approximately doubled between 1950 and 1980. This troubling phenomenon and its attendant problems sparked the creation or reorganization of government departments charged with administering health issues as well as the creation of a new organization called Alcohol Concern. Alcohol education issues were mandated to be handled through an independent body (Action on Alcohol Abuse, or AAA) under the aegis of the Royal Colleges of Medicine. (The AAA was discontinued after 1989 due to insufficient funding.) A series of acts in the 1970s and 1980s required, among other things, mandatory licenses for shops and beverage distributors; established legal age limits for consumption; and restricted the hours for sale of alcoholic beverages. In 1990 the Portman Group, an association of alcohol manufacturers, established a "Proof of Age" card to encourage compliance with the legal age limits for the purchase of alcoholic beverages. As with other countries in the European Union, severe penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol were introduced in 1967 and 1981 (the Road Safety Act and the Transport Act, respectively). And finally, as with other European states, under the rubric of prevention a detailed set of guidelines regulated the advertising of alcoholic beverages on radio, television, and in various print and advertising media.

Although international temperance and anti-alcohol conventions were held after 1945, they had far less importance than before 1914. Uniformity of action by the European states on this issue came only in 1990 with the formation of EUROCARE-Advocacy for the Prevention of Alcohol Related Harm in Europe, an alliance of voluntary and nongovernmental organizations concerned about the impact of the European Union on alcohol policy in member states. EUROCARE maintains a Web site detailing alcohol statistics for nations in the European Union. [For statistics of alcohol consumption, see tables 1 and 2.]

With the World Health Organization's recommendations for reduction of alcohol production in various states and the European Union's insistence that potential members adopt equitable alcohol taxation policies, many of the aspects of alcohol consumption, abuse, and temperance that had been the concern of European civil society from the eighteenth through the early twentieth century appeared well on the way to standardization through state or national and even supranational efforts at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Books

Barr, Andrew. Drink. London and New York, 1995.

Barrows, Susanna, and Robin Room, eds. Drinking: Behavior and Belief in ModernHistory. Berkeley, Calif., 1991.

Chevalier, Louis. Laboring Classes and Dangerous Classes in Paris during the First Half of the Nineteenth Century. New York, 1973.

Christian, David. Living Water: Vodka and Russian Society on the Eve of Emancipation. Oxford, 1990.

Clark, Peter. The English Alehouse: A Social History, 1200–1830. London and New York, 1983.

Deichman, E. I. Alkogolizm i bor'ba s nim. Moscow and Leningrad, 1929.

Dion, Roger. Histoire de la vigne et du vin en France des origines au XIXe siècle. Paris, 1959.

Gordon, Ernest. The Anti-alcohol Movement in Europe. New York, 1913.

Haine, W. Scott. The World of the Paris Café: Sociability among the French WorkingClass, 1789–1914. Baltimore, 1996.

Harrison, Brian. Drink and the Victorians: The Temperance Question in England,1815–1872. Pittsburgh, 1971.

Hayler, Guy. Prohibition Advance in All Lands: A Study of the World-Wide Character of the Drink Question. London, 1913.

Kassow, Samuel D., James L. West, and Edith W. Clowes. Between Tsar and People:Educated Society and the Quest for Public Identity in Late Imperial Russia. Princeton, N.J., 1991.

Prestwich, Patricia. Drink and the Politics of Social Reform: Antialcoholism in France since 1870. Palo Alto, Calif., 1988.

Pryzhov, I. G. Istoriia kabakov v Rossii v sviazi istoriei russkogo naroda (A history of taverns in Russia in connection with the history of the Russian people). St. Petersburg, 1868.

Shiman, Lilian Lewis. Crusade against Drink in Victorian England. New York, 1988.

Smith, R. E. F., and David Christian. Bread and Salt: A Social and EconomicHistory of Food and Drink in Russia. New York, 1984.

Sournia, Jean-Charles. A History of Alcoholism. Oxford, 1990.

Spode, Hasso. Die Macht der Trunkenheit: Kultur- und Sozialgeschichte des Alkohols in Deutschland. Opladen, Germany, 1993.

Articles

Bynum, W. F. "Alcoholism and Degeneration in 19th Century European Medicine and Psychiatry." British Journal of Addiction 79, no. 1 (1984): 59–70.

Hutchinson, John. "Medicine, Morality, and Social Policy in Imperial Russia: The Early Years of the Alcohol Commission." Social History 7, no. 14 (1974): 201–225.

Hutchinson, John. "Science, Politics, and the Alcohol Problem in Post-1905 Russia." Slavonic and East European Review 58, no. 2 (April 1990): 232–254.

Marrus, Michael R. "Social Drinking in the Belle Époque." Journal of Social History 7, no. 2 (1974): 115–141.

McCandless, Peter. " 'Curses of Civilization': Insanity and Drunkenness in Victorian Britain." British Journal of Addiction 79, no. 1 (1984): 49–58.

Phillips, Laura L. "Message in a Bottle: Working-Class Culture and the Struggle for Revolutionary Legitimacy, 1900–1929." Russian Review 56, no. 1 (1997): 25–43.

Roberts, James S. "Drink and Industrial Work Discipline in 19th Century Germany." Journal of Social History 15 (1981): 25–38.

Roberts, James S. "Drink and the Labor Movement: The Schnapps Boycott of 1909." In The German Working Class, 1888–1933: The Politics of Everyday Life. Edited by Richard J. Evans. London, 1982.

Snow, George E. "Alcoholism in the Russian Military: The Public Sphere and the Temperance Discourse, 1883–1917." Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 45, no. 3 (1997): 417–431.

Snow, George E. "Change and Continuity: Alcohol and Alcoholism in Russia and the Soviet Union. A Review Essay." Social History of Alcohol Review 17 (1988): 7–15.

Snow, George E. "Perceptions of the Link between Alcoholism and Crime in Prerevolutionary Russia." Criminal Justice History 8 (1987): 37–51.

Vallee, Bert L. "Alcohol in the Western World." Scientific American, June 1998, 80–85.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Alcohol and Temperance." Encyclopedia of European Social History. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 May. 2019 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Alcohol and Temperance." Encyclopedia of European Social History. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 19, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/alcohol-and-temperance

"Alcohol and Temperance." Encyclopedia of European Social History. . Retrieved May 19, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/alcohol-and-temperance

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.