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Unit information: Drink and Disorder in Early Modern England (Level C Special Topic) in 2016/17

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Unit name Drink and Disorder in Early Modern England (Level C Special Topic)
Unit code HIST10017
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Austin
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will introduce students to the field of ‘drinking studies’ – currently one of the liveliest areas of research into the early modern period. Historians have come to realise that the (often central) role that alcohol plays within a society can reflect themes of broader importance: for example, the regulation of alcohol consumption can tell us about the relationship between the state and it’s subjects, and studying patterns of alcohol consumption – such as who people drank with – can shed light on attitudes about gender, class and friendship. Studying drinking therefore provides a ‘prism’ through which to see wider issues, and this unit utilises a focus on drinking in early modern England to introduce students to the social and cultural history of that society more generally. This will involve close engagement with primary sources, and a strong focus on how and why the field of ‘drinking studies’ has emerged in the past decade.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students should have:

  • identified, analysed, and deepened their understanding of the significance of key themes in the study of the history of drinking in early modern England
  • understood the historiographical debates that surround the topic
  • learned how to work with primary sources
  • developed their skills in contributing to and learning from discussion in a small-group environment

Teaching details

Weekly 2-hour seminar

Access to tutorial consultation with unit tutor in office hours

Assessment Details

2-hour unseen written examination (summative, 100%)

The examination will assess their understanding of the unit’s key themes, the related historiography as developed during their reading and participation in / learning from small group seminars, and relevant primary sources. Further assessment of their handling of the relevant primary sources will be provided by the co-requisite Special Topic Project (HIST 13003)

Reading and References

P. Clark, The English Alehouse. A Social History 1200-1830 (London, New York, 1983). especially chapters 1-10.

M. Hailwood, 'Alehouses, Popular Politics and Plebeian Agency in Early Modern England', in Fiona Williamson (ed.), Locating Agency: Space, Power and Popular Politics (Newcastle, 2010), pp.51-76.

B. Kumin, Drinking Matters: Public Houses and Social Exchange in Early Modern Central Europe (Basingstoke, 2007).

A. L. Martin, Alcohol, Sex and Gender in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Basingstoke, 2001).

J. Nicholls, The Politics of Alcohol: A History of the Drink Question in England (Manchester, 2009). Especially pp.1-34.

K. Wrightson, English Society, 1580-1680 (London, 1982; 2003). Especially chapter 6.