The politics of sobriety: coffee and society in Georgian England

James Nicholls

in The Politics of Alcohol

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780719077050
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702758 | DOI:
The politics of sobriety: coffee and society in Georgian England

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In addition to the deep-rooted political impacts of prohibition, something else was happening in Georgian England which would shape the politics of consumption in a profound way, and which would prepare the ground for the Victorian temperance movement. This was the beginnings of a politics of sobriety. If wine, beer and port acted as signifiers of party allegiance after the Restoration, then that resonance was echoed by the way in which coffee came to signify a set of cultural, political, and philosophical values which transcended the fuzzy party lines of Georgian England. The first coffee houses appeared in England in the 1650s. In his influential study of democracy and the public sphere, the German social theorist Jürgen Habermas claimed that the coffee houses of Georgian London were fundamental to the rise of modern democratic culture. More than anything else, what coffee houses provided was a social space that reflected ‘politeness’ and ‘manners’.

Keywords: Georgian England; politics; consumption; sobriety; coffee; coffee houses; Jürgen Habermas; politeness; manners; democratic culture

Chapter.  3381 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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