The last tyrant: the rise of temperance

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 last tyrant: the rise of temperance

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The single factor which distinguished the Victorian temperance movement from the raft of anti-drink activity that preceded it was the emergence of organised temperance societies. That is, local, and later national, associations whose defining feature was their goal of reducing or eradicating alcohol consumption across society. Evangelicalism was spreading the message of organised social and moral reform at the same time as increasing numbers of individuals who were publicly mooting the idea of partial or even total abstinence from alcoholic drinks. However, it was the ‘fusion of the idea of association with the idea of abstinence’ which was needed to kick-start the temperance campaign. In post-colonial America, as in Hanoverian England, alcohol consumption tapped into deep-set concerns about both freedom and national identity. Organised teetotalism was a revolutionary idea, especially among the working class. It was after the teetotallers conjured up their vision of a sober millennium that it became possible to think about entirely new levels of social and political freedom as being achieved through sobriety.

Keywords: England; temperance movement; alcohol consumption; abstinence; freedom; teetotalism; sobriety; alcoholic drinks; evangelicalism; national identity

Chapter.  5890 words. 

Subjects: Political Theory

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