A discussion forum for history enthusiasts everywhere
 
HomeHome  ShortcutsShortcuts  FAQFAQ  RegisterRegister  Log inLog in  

Share | 
 

 The Great Binge

View previous topic View next topic Go down 
AuthorMessage
Triceratops
Censura


Posts : 2688
Join date : 2012-01-05

PostSubject: The Great Binge   Thu 09 May 2013, 12:14

The name historians give to the period in the 50 or so years prior to the First World War, when drug and alcohol usage was commonplace. The original recipe for Coca-Cola is believed to have contained cocaine, regarded at the time as a stimulant and even used in the treatment of morphine addiction. Cocaine was even used as toothache relief [for children if this advert is anything to go bye];



Use of these substances was socially acceptable, Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes regularly "shooting up", while the Pope recommended another coca based drink, Vin Mariani;



Heroin, manufactured as a trade name by Bayer, was sold along side Aspirin, in chemists.

In France, absinthe became popular having been originally issued to the Army as an anti-malarial remedy, and soon became the drink of choice of artists and poets in Paris, though absinthe in the 1880s was cheap enough to be used by all social classes.

Eventually, in the early years of the 20th century, the realisation that these substances were addictive led the authorities to ban them and between 1906-1914, they were proscribed throughout Europe and North America (though for some reason absinthe was never made illegal in Britain)

http://timbryars.tumblr.com/post/9462774146/mapping-the-great-binge
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ


Posts : 5371
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Thu 09 May 2013, 13:14

It is difficult to know just when the "binge" began. Thomas de Quincey, in his famous "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" wrote of English society in the first few decades of the 19th century;

"...It was a natural inference that the entire population of England would furnish a proportionable number [of opium addicts]. The soundness of this inference, however, I doubted, until some facts became known to me which satisfied me that it was not incorrect. I will mention two. (1) Three respectable London druggists, in widely remote quarters of London, from whom I happened lately to be purchasing small quantities of opium, assured me that the number of amateur opium-eaters (as I may term them) was at this time immense; and that the difficulty of distinguishing those persons to whom habit had rendered opium necessary from such as were purchasing it with a view to suicide, occasioned them daily trouble and disputes. This evidence respected London only. But (2)—which will possibly surprise the reader more—some years ago, on passing through Manchester, I was informed by several cotton manufacturers that their workpeople were rapidly getting into the practice of opium-eating; so much so, that on a Saturday afternoon the counters of the druggists were strewed with pills of one, two, or three grains, in preparation for the known demand of the evening. The immediate occasion of this practice was the lowness of wages, which at that time would not allow them to indulge in ale or spirits, and wages rising, it may be thought that this practice would cease; but as I do not readily believe that any man having once tasted the divine luxuries of opium will afterwards descend to the gross and mortal enjoyments of alcohol, I take it for granted

That those eat now who never ate before;
And those who always ate, now eat the more.
"

Prior to this passage he listed several people of his own acquaintance who, like him, were addicted to the drug, a short list but which ran from lowly poets right up to Secretaries of State. In a country where cholera and dysentery were almost commonplace afflictions and for which laudanum, an opium extract easily available at affordable prices for even the poorest, was considered the most effective treatment (as it was for the common cold too), it makes one wonder just who was ever truly sober at all at any time.

de Quincey was very fair in his assessment both of himself and the drug. He criticised both, but one thing he could say in its favour was that its use had at least helped reduce Londoners' dependency on gin which, at the time of his own birth, had an estimated consumption to dangerous levels by as many as seven in ten of some boroughs' populations.

No one at the time rated beer as a drug at all, and nor did they measure its consumption - given that in many areas it was considered the healthy alternative to water (it had at least been boiled once in its manufacturing process so this was in fact true) and could be manufactured and sold by all manner of unlicensed personnel. All things considered it does rather look like Britain stumbled into the age of empire and industry in a completely alcoholic and drugged-out haze.
Back to top Go down
http://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Meles meles
Censura


Posts : 2546
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Thu 09 May 2013, 13:22

@Triceratops wrote:
The name historians give to the period in the 50 or so years prior to the First World War, when drug and alcohol usage was commonplace...... Cocaine was even used as toothache relief .....

I might be approaching my dotage but I'm not that old Trike! ... I distinctly remember being given cocaine (as an injection) when I got a tooth taken out in about 1970 or maybe even a couple of years later. And after the extraction I seem to remember being given a paste (almost certainly cocaine-based) to rub on my gum if it was too painful. I think cocaine was quite routinely administered as a local anesthetic (if one was ever actually given an anesthetic) for dental work until quite a few years later than that.

But it is true, up until about 1914 one could still readily buy laudanum - a refined tinture of opium, as well as arsenic, mercury and cyanide salts, quite simply over the counter at the local high street pharmacy without any doctor's prescription.


Last edited by Meles meles on Thu 09 May 2013, 13:48; edited 2 times in total
Back to top Go down
Triceratops
Censura


Posts : 2688
Join date : 2012-01-05

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Thu 09 May 2013, 13:38

The evils of Gin were of course immortalised by Hogarth back in 1751 in Gin Lane, drunk for a penny, dead drunk for twopence;



Meles, last time I got a tooth removed, I got an injection of Novocaine, must be some form of cocaine derivative.
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ


Posts : 5371
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Thu 09 May 2013, 13:58

And gin was just one manifestation of an ancient relationship between Londoners and intoxication. Pepys - no mean drinker himself - was shocked when a "lady", a fellow guest at a mutual friend's house, knocked back a pint and a half of white wine in one swallow. However he wasn't witnessing anything that he hadn't seen his male friends do repeatedly. This habit of drinking wine as if it was beer was noticed also by the Italian diplomat de Mendoza when he arrived in England in 1537 on an unsuccessful mission to arrange a wedding between Henry VIII and Christina of Denmark, the Duchess of Milan. He found Henry perpetually drunk too and seems relieved when his own mission failed and he could get back to Milan and tell the young Duchess what she wasn't missing.

A law designed to obtain revenues from the brewing of stingo (beer flavoured with peppers) passed during the reign of Edward the Confessor made an exemption for private households in that it was the custom to brew the alcohol privately for the benefit of the children's health - children's constitutions not reckoned to be as strong as adults and therefore better suited to downing a few pints of stingo than chancing water or milk. No wonder they developed such a swallowing technique!
Back to top Go down
http://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Triceratops
Censura


Posts : 2688
Join date : 2012-01-05

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Thu 09 May 2013, 15:18

Re de Quincey and The Confessions of an Opium Eater, Coleridge and Byron, possibly all the Romantic poets except Wordsworth, indulged in the habit as well.

French advert from 1896 for absinthe;

Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ


Posts : 5371
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Fri 10 May 2013, 10:44

Of course it wasn't just Britain either over the centuries that was perpetually sozzled, stoned and legless.

The USA was founded by a group of what we would now call "functioning alcoholics" (though even the "functioning" bit might be queried in some cases). At the time of his death George Washington ran one of the largest distilleries in the fledgling nation. Thomas Jefferson as president liked to keep a constant 20,000 bottles of wine in his presidential cellar, and both presidents in their day defeated attempts to address alcohol misuse within the new federation, most notably in Georgia (where rum from the USA's 140 rum distilleries was a problem) and in Virginia (where imported cheap madeira wine mixed with brandy was the poison of preference).

It is well known that the famous Boston Tea Party was a very well lubricated affair, even by the standards of the day. And they were some standards! It has been estimated that the annual per capita guzzle in colonial America just before independence was thirty-four gallons of beer and cider, five gallons of distilled spirits, and one gallon of wine. And the men were as bad!
Back to top Go down
http://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Triceratops
Censura


Posts : 2688
Join date : 2012-01-05

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Fri 10 May 2013, 12:06

I'm not surprised by those figures, Nordmann. At roughly the same time, the daily beer ration in the Royal Navy was one gallon per man per day, though this was being replaced by a half-pint of spirits (invariably rum) per man per day. The smaller volume being much easier to store.
Back to top Go down
Meles meles
Censura


Posts : 2546
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Fri 10 May 2013, 12:27

But wasn't the navy's daily gallon ration of beer simply each man's general drink ration, since beer kept better than water? And it probably wasn't all that strong, maybe 3% or something like that. That's quite a lot of beer to consume over a day but not really excessive if one's doing hard manual labour. Was the replacement ration of rum issued mixed with water, as grog? I suspect it was and as such surely it was intended to make the stale stored water more palatable, rather than get the crew plastered.
Back to top Go down
Triceratops
Censura


Posts : 2688
Join date : 2012-01-05

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Fri 10 May 2013, 13:39

I don't know what the strength of the beer was Meles, I'll take a look at Rogers' Command of the Sea at the weekend.

Yes, rum was mixed with water to make grog ( after Admiral Vernon, knicknamed "old grogram", grogham being a material which Vernon wore as a coat)


Last edited by Triceratops on Sun 12 May 2013, 17:15; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ


Posts : 5371
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Fri 10 May 2013, 13:58

There is no great evidence that millions of people throughout all this time were dropping like flies from liver disease so there must have been something crucially different between how they imbibed and how we imbibe when dealing with the same quantities. I can't imagine livers in London were in pristine condition during the gin epidemic, but otherwise generations have been swigging back gallons of mead, fortified wine, wine, home-made spirits, stingo, hooch and hundreds of other variations of turpentine in huge quantities without history having recorded mass liver failure at any time.

Given that we are now led to believe that life expectancy wasn't quite so horrendously short as we once thought it was (if childhood was survived of course) and given that liver problems were identifiable and correctly diagnosed since Egyptian times, it does seem strange that the records are rather silent on the matter, doesn't it?
Back to top Go down
http://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Vizzer
Decemviratus Legibus Scribundis


Posts : 710
Join date : 2012-05-12

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Sat 11 May 2013, 01:35

@Triceratops wrote:
The name historians give to the period in the 50 or so years prior to the First World War, when drug and alcohol usage was commonplace.
Those years also saw raki overtake wine as the favourite drink in the popular 'meyhane' (winehouses) of the Ottoman Empire. It's not clear exactly why this should have been other that that there had been a general liberalisation of the penal code in the empire since 1839. But whatever the specific reason(s) it does seem that the Great Binge was a truly global phenomenon.

That said - and despite the fact that meyhane is a Persian word - neighbouring Persia itself seems to have bucked the trend. Or at least it did so during the Tobacco Protest of the 1890s. This followed a temporary fatwa issued by the Ayatollah Mirza Shirazi against the use of tobacco. Control of the Persian tobacco industry had been about to be conceded by the Shah to British interests but the widely-supported tobacco boycott (prompted by the fatwa) successfully prevented this and forced the Shah to cancel the concession. It was one of the first examples of the potent mix of Shia Islam, nationalism, trade disputes and anti-imperialism which would come to characterise the history of Iran in the following century.
Back to top Go down
Triceratops
Censura


Posts : 2688
Join date : 2012-01-05

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Sun 12 May 2013, 17:30

Nothing in the way of drink strengths in Rodgers, though he does include the following quote from Lord Keith from 1812;

"It is observable and deeply to be lamented that almost every crime except theft originates in drunkenness,and that a large proprtion of the men who are maimed and disabled are reduced to that situation by accidents that happen from the same abominable vice.It is an evil of great magnitude,and one which it will be impossible to prevent so long as the present excessive quantity of spirits is issued in the Royal Navy"

In another book, Frigates, Sloops and Brigs by James Henderson the author gives a round figure of 100,000 deaths in the Royal Navy between 1793-1815 and splits the loss as follows:

Disease 50%

Individual accident,usually when drunk* 30%

Perils of the sea 13%

Enemy action 7%

*as it appears in the book.



Vizzer, interesting information regarding the Ottomans and Persia.
Back to top Go down
Triceratops
Censura


Posts : 2688
Join date : 2012-01-05

PostSubject: Re: The Great Binge   Sun 12 May 2013, 17:52

During the First World War, Harrods sold a gift set, A Welcome Present for Friends at the Front, which contained cocaine, morphine, syringes and needles.
Back to top Go down
 

The Great Binge

View previous topic View next topic Back to top 
Page 1 of 1

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
Res Historica History Forum :: The history of people ... :: Customs, traditions, etiquette and ethics-