In 1751, famous artist and brutally honest social critic William Hogarth, captured the darkest moments of London’s Gin epidemic in his etching entitled “Gin Lane”. The scene captured by Hogarth represents the slum of London’s St Giles district, a neighborhood understandably described by the artists as where, “nothing but idleness, poverty, misery and ruin are to be seen”. In the background is the spire of St George’s church in Bloomsbury, normally a symbol of London’s elegance yet in stark contrast to events below showing brawling drunkards, ruined buildings, housewives pawning goods for gin, babies being fed on gin, scenes of murder, suicide and various other images of inhumanity with the most prosperous house in the scene belonging to the undertaker. In the bottom left hand corner of this image is a local gin-palace (a cheap spirit shop) called “Gin Royal” with a sign above the door which famously states;
“Drunk for a penny, dead drunk for two pence, clean straw for nothing”.
Popular London novelist and Court Justice Henry Fielding would describe the life in such slums as, “excessive misery…oppressed with want, and sunk in every species of debauchery”. Fielding was also a close friend and partner at cards of Hogarth.
In a stark comparison to the messages in Gin Lane was its counterpart entitled “Beer Street”, showing a more civil and humane society who imbibe beer instead of those who partake of ruinous gin. As explained by Hogarth himself, “[Beer Street] was given as a contrast, w[h]ere the invigorating liquor is recommend[ed] in order [to] drive the other out of vogue. Here all is joyous and thriving [.] industry and jollity go hand in hand“. Beer street shows us jovial people who are fat (therefore healthy), buildings rising up instead of falling down, a church spire flying the King’s standard high in the background against a pawnbrokers sign falling down in the foreground. Hogarth was well-known to represent many topics of alcoholic reform in his works, a subject which is suggested is closer to Hogarth than most after his mother died “of a fright” in a brandy-shop fire 36 years previously. Hogarth also lived near the popular Fullers Brewery in London and as such would have been well experienced in the difference between these two juxtaposed drinking societies.
Distillation was common throughout Europe by the Middle Ages, but was fairly uncommon in England, compared to beer and ale production, because a domestic monopoly kept prices very high. In 1689, Parliament banned imports of French wines and spirits and at the same time cancelled the domestic monopoly. Subsequently, anyone who could pay the required duties could set up a distillery business. Distillers became not only producers, but also sellers. The cost of gin fell below the cost of beer and ale (see Spring and Buss, 1977) and gin drinking became the favourite alcoholic beverage among the ‘inferior class’. British statistical abstracts put the annual consumption of gin in England and Wales in 1700 at about 1.23 million gallons. By 1714, consumption was up to almost 2 million gallons per year. By 1735, it was 6.4 million gallons, and by 1751, 7.05 million gallons. In terms of population, per capita consumption increased by up to eightfold from between 1 and 2 pints in 1700 to between 8 and 9 pints, about a gallon per person in 1751 (Mitchell and Deane, 1962). Beer consumption for the same period remained relatively constant at 3 million gallons a year.
George, one of the most influential historians of the early 20th century, blamed the increase in gin consumption for much of the social unrest that also increased during this period. The most commonly cited support for this argument was that after the passage of the Tippling Act of 1751, which George called a ‘turning point in the social history of London’, social unrest declined. The Tippling Act prohibited distillers from selling gin at retail, and levied severe penalties for non-compliance, such as imprisonment, whipping and even deportation for repeat offenders. As a result, gin prices rose, gin consumption steadily declined back to 2 million gallons [beer consumption, however, steadily increased to about 4 million gallons a year (Mitchell and Deane, 1962)], and social unrest did decline. However, in this article, I argue that the social unrest prior to and after the Tippling Act was the result of, and was fueled and exacerbated by, excessive gin drinking, rather than having been its cause.
Kicked Out of Heaven Vol. II
Paperback Now in Color $90.00
The Untold History of The White Races cir. 700 – 1700 a.d.
666 pgs + 196 pix = 1,000s of FACTS!
Kicked Out Of Heaven Vol. II: The Untold History of The White Races cir. 700-1700 a.d. is a 3 volume series that will be released one by one. This book details everything about European society and mentality. In this edition you will find these facts: Alcoholism & The Blue Devils, Insanity & Lead Poisoning, Ergot (LSD) Hallucinations, The Sweating Sickness & Leprosy, The Tobacco Enema & Leeches, The Defloration Mania, The Dancing Mania, The Black Death, The Gravediggers & Body Snatchers, Jews Poisoning the Wells, Millions of Deaths, Folklore & Superstition, Magic Mirrors & Crystal Balls, Witches Dancing in Baby Blood, Pants Made of Human Skin, Necromancy & Ghost Armies, Attacks from The Undead, Lycanthropy & Were-Wolves, Multiple Cases of Vampires, Who is Satan, Lucifer & The Devil!
CNN: Suicide rates among America’s young people continue to soar, study shows.