Odious monopolies: power, control and the 1830 Beer Act

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:
Odious monopolies: power, control and the 1830 Beer Act

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While the second half of the eighteenth century saw the emergence of new philosophical and medical speculations on the nature of intoxication and addiction, it also saw the return of some much older concerns over licensing and the social role of alehouses. In 1830, the passing of a Beer Act would, in one dramatic move, undo almost three centuries of work towards placing beer retail under the control of magistrates. The Beer Act of 1830 represented a victory of free trade capitalism over the established power of local economic and political elites. The 1830 Beer Act transformed an anti-spirits movement which stretched back to the days of the gin craze into a radical and well-organised teetotal temperance campaign. A confluence of anxieties over gin drinking and alehouses, radicalised by the pressures of a drift towards laissez-faire capitalism, kick-started a temperance movement which would become one of the dominant political forces of Victorian England. In 1787, George III was cajoled by William Wilberforce into issuing a Royal Proclamation against vice, profaneness, and immorality.

Keywords: intoxication; alehouses; 1830 Beer Act; magistrates; free trade; capitalism; beer; temperance movement; Victorian England; Royal Proclamation

Chapter.  7211 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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