The Gin Craze

In a programme first broadcast in December 2016, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the craze for gin in Britain in the mid-18th century and the attempts to control it. With the arrival of William of Orange, it became an act of loyalty to drink Protestant, Dutch gin rather than Catholic brandy, and changes in tariffs made everyday beer less affordable. Within a short time, production increased and large sections of the population that had rarely or never drunk spirits before were consuming two pints of gin a week. As Hogarth indicated in his print ‘Beer Street and Gin Lane’ (1751) in support of the Gin Act, the damage was severe, and addiction to gin was blamed for much of the crime in cities such as London.

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  • Angela McShane No other episodes
    Research Fellow in History at the Victoria and Albert Museum and University of Sheffield
  • Judith Hawley 14 episodes
    Professor of 18th century literature at Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Emma Major No other episodes
    Senior Lecturer in English at the University of York

Reading list

  • The English Alehouse: A Social History, 1200-1830
    Peter Clark (Longman, 1983) Google Books →
  • Gin: The Much-Lamented Death of Madam Geneva: The Eighteenth-century Gin Craze
    Patrick Dillon (Thistle Publishing, 2013) Google Books →
  • The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London's Golden Age
    Vic Gattrell (Penguin, 2014)
  • An Inebriated History of Britain
    Peter Haydon (The History Press, 2005) Google Books →
  • Empire of Booze
    Henry Jeffreys (Unbound, 2016) Google Books →
  • A History of Drink and the English, 1500-2000
    Paul Jennings (Routledge, 2016) Google Books →
  • The Politics of Alcohol: A History of the Drink Question in England
    James Nicholls (Manchester University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • English Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain
    Roy Porter (Penguin, 1990) Google Books →
  • A Pleasing Sinne: Drink and Conviviality in Seventeenth-Century England
    Adam Smyth (ed.) (D. S. Brewer, 2004) Google Books →
  • William Hogarth: A Life and a World
    Jenny Uglow (Faber and Faber, 2002) Google Books →
  • Craze: Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason
    Jessica Warner (Profile Books, 2002) Google Books →
  • Gin Glorious Gin: How Mother's Ruin Became the Spirit of London
    Olivia Williams (Headline, 2014) Google Books →
  • Last Orders: A Social History of Drinking
    History Today, e-book ( 2012)

Related episodes

Programme ID: b084zk6z

Episode page:

Auto-category: 363.41 (Alcohol abuse and its social effects)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello, the gin craze gripped Britain in the 18th century when the government feared that poor people were drinking far too much cheap gin, damaging their own health and the safety and well-being of all.