World Alcohol and Drinking History Timeline

Alcohol has been used by humans for thousands of years. It has provided needed nutrition caloric value. This helps explain the frequent lack of nutritional deficiencies in some populations even today whose diets are generally poor. Importantly, the levels of amino acids and vitamins increase during fermentation.1 Although modern food technology uses enrichment or fortification to improve the nutrition of foods, it is possible to achieve nutritional enrichment naturally through fermentation.2

The desire to raise grain for brewing appears to have played an important role in the transition from nomadic hunting and gathering to settling in agricultural communities and the beginning of civilizations.

Alcoholic beverages have long served as thirst quenchers in a world in which water has generally been either unhealthful or questionable at best. Ancient writers rarely wrote about water, except as a warning.3 In the late eighteenth century most Parisians were poor and had the practical choice of drinking alcoholic beverages or water from a very muddy and often chemically polluted Seine.4 Coffee and tea were expensive and not commonly consumed on a daily basis in most of Europe until the mid-nineteenth century.5

Alcohol has historically been therapeutic or medicinal. It has clearly been a major analgesic, and one widely available to people in pain. It has not only provided the caloric energy needed for hard labor, but also a relief from the resulting fatigue.

Indicative of the high value people have generally placed on alcohol is the fact that it has frequently been acceptable as a medium of exchange. For example, in Medieval England, ale was often used to pay toll, rent or debts.6

Historians and chroniclers tend to note problems rather than normalcy and they more often write about any problems caused by alcohol abuse rather than about the non-events of its typical, moderate consumption.

The founding Director of the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism concluded that "... alcohol has existed longer than all human memory. It has outlived generations, nations, epochs and ages. It is a part of us, and that is fortunate indeed. For although alcohol will always be the master of some, for most of us it will continue to be the servant of man."7

This timeline presents events in the history of alcohol and drinking over the past 12,000 years in chronological order. When events are listed as having occurred within a period of time, such as during the 15th century, they are listed before more specifically dated events, such as 1420 or 1492.

Past

Future

 

Note: This website is informational only and does not make recommendations or suggestions about alcohol, drinking, legal matters, health, or any other subject and none should be inferred. Great effort has been taken to insure the accuracy of the materials presented but they cannot be guaranteed. Corrections and suggestions are invited.

References:

  • 1 Ghaliounqui, Paul. Fermented Beverages in Antiquity. In: Gastineau, Clifford, et al. (eds.) Fermented Food Beverages in Nutrition. New York: Academic Press, 1979. Pp. 3-19. Pp. 8-9.
  • 2 Steinkraus, Keith H. Nutritionally Significant Indigenous Foods Involving an Alcoholic Fermentation. In: Gastineau, Clifford, et al. (eds.) Fermented Food Beverages in Nutrition. New York: Academic Press, 1979. Pp. 35-57. Pp.. 36. 
  • 3 Ghaliounqui, Paul. Fermented Beverages in Antiquity. In: Gastineau, Clifford, et al. (eds.) Fermented Food Beverages in Nutrition. New York: Academic Press, 1979. Pp. 3-19. P. 3.
  • 4 Braudel, Fernand. Capitalism and Material Life, 1400-1800. Translated by Miriam Kochan. New York: Harper and Row, 1979, pp. 159-160.
  • 5 Austin, Gregory A. Alcohol in Western Society from Antiquity to 1800: A Chronological History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC - Clio, 1985, pp. 251, 254, 351, 359, 366.
  • 6 Watney, John. Beer is Best: A History of Beer. London: Peter Owen, 1974, p. 16.
  • 7 Chafetz, Morris E. Liquor: The Servant of Man. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1965, 223.

filed under: Fun Facts

This site does not dispense medical, legal, or any other advice and none should be inferred.
For more fine print, read the disclaimer.