From about 1700 to about 1800
European countries expanded their activities establishing colonies around
the world during this period. In addition, there were important scientific
discoveries, political revolutions, and social developments.
Note: This timeline presents events in the history of alcohol and drinking during European Expansion, from about 1700 to about 1800, in chronological order. When events are listed as having occurred within a period of time, such as cir. thirteenth century 1774-1783, they are listed before more specifically dated events, such as 1776.
- The popularity of alcohol in Europe as a medicine was very high throughout the century.1
- Alcoholic beverages played a major role in European diets, especially in providing much needed calories.2
- Winemaking began in Australia (New South Wales) in the late part of the century.3
- By the early 1760s, a London publisher was selling a cellar-record book for listing wine purchases and consumption. This indicates that there was a market for aged wines at that time.4
- Hard cider served as a currency in the American colonies.5
- “Housewives in the northern colonies [of what is now the US] brewed beer every few days, since their product had a short shelf life.”6
Cir. 1720-Cir. 1750
- The prohibition of spirits was attempted in the colony of Georgia, but failed in the Oglethorpe Experiment of 1733-1742.7
- The English Parliment actively promoted gin production to utilize surplus grain and to raise revenue. Encouraged by public policy, very cheap spirits flooded the market at a time when there was little stigma attached to drunkenness and when the growing urban poor in London sought relief from the newfound insecurities and harsh realities of urban life.8 Thus developed the so-called Gin Epidemic. In 1685, consumption of gin had been slightly over one-half million gallons.9 By 1714, gin production stood at two million gallons.10 In 1727, official (declared and taxed) production reached five million gallons; six years later the London area alone produced eleven million gallons of gin.11
- Although the negative effects of the so-called gin epidemic may have been exaggerated,12 Parliament passed legislation in 1736 to discourage consumption by prohibiting the sale of gin in quantities of less than two gallons and raising the tax on it dramatically. However, the peak in consumption was reached seven years later, when the nation of six and one-half million people drank over 18 million gallons of gin. And most was consumed by the small minority of the population then living in London and other cities; people in the countryside largely remained loyal to beer, ale and cider.13 After its dramatic peak, gin consumption rapidly declined. From 18 million gallons in 1743, it dropped to just over seven million gallons in 1751 and to less than two million by 1758, and generally declined to the end of the century.14
- A number of factors appear to have converged to discourage consumption of gin. These include the production of higher quality beer of lower price, rising corn prices and taxes which eroded the price advantage of gin, a temporary ban on distilling, a stigmatization of drinking gin, an increasing criticism of drunkenness, a newer standard of behavior that criticized coarseness and excess, increased tea and coffee consumption, an increase in piety and increasing industrialization with a consequent emphasis on sobriety and labor efficiency.15
- “In the late 1700s and th early 1800s, several navigators and explorers [to New Zealand], such as Marion du Fresne (in 1772), noted that the indigenous people, the Maori, were not fond of liquor and reacted in surprise and disgust when they tasted it.”16
By 1700, sparkling Champagne had become so popular that it sold for twice the price of the best still wine from the region.17
Portugal established the oldest appellation system in the world, the Douro Valley.18
By 1714, gin production in England reached two million gallons per year, double that of 1696.19
“The first large-scale vineyard was planted in northern Mexico around 1717, and various prohibitions [against other vineyard plantings] were decreed thereafter in order to secure the Spanish wine monopoly.”20
The profits of vintners in France increased as the demand grew for both inferior and good wines.21
Increasing rural prosperity in France enabled peasants for the first time to drink alcohol daily in viticultural areas.22
To control drunkenness, Parliament passed the Gin Control Act of 1729. It raised taxes on alcoholic beverage retailers.23
Londoner John Clarke invented the hydrometer, which could be used to measure the alcohol content of beer, wine or spirits.24
English sailors were given the option to take their daily ration of alcohol as a pint of wine or a half-pint of rum, instead of the traditional gallon of beer. 25
- In Holland, the poduction of gin increased 400% between 1733 and 1792.26
- Parliament repealed the ineffective Act of 1729 because it had failed to stop what was seen as a gin epidemic.27
Parliament passed a harsh new Gin Act. It attempted to increase the taxes on gin so high that that it would virtually prohibit its purchase by poor people.28
In Bern, Switzerland, a society named the Golden Louse was formed, whose members were committed to becoming intoxicated wvery day of the week.29
In Holland, there were 100 berewers employing 1,200 people. 30
John Wesley included a prohibition against drunkenness in the geberal rules of the Methodist church.31
1750 to Early 1800s
Alcoholic mutual aid societies (sobriety “circles”) were formed within various Native American tribes. Some circles later become the basis for temperance societies.32
In most French boarding schools, wine provided the third largest source of calories.33
The first sobriety circles were established among Native American tribes in 1750. These sometimes later became the nuclei for temperance organizations.34
“there were about 700 inns that served alcoholic beverages in Stockholm in 1754. This meant one inn per 88 citizens, which can be compared with today’s one restaurant per 700 citizens.”35
Arthur Guinness established the Guinness brewery in Dublin.36
Frederick II, king of Prussia, imposed a high tax on coffee in order to increase brewing, from which he derived substantial revenue.37
Catherine th Great (1762-1796) of Russia, established a system of alcohol monopoly franchises (otkupa) in specific geographic areas to increase profits to the state.38
Wine cultivation was introduced into California from Mexico and wine making became its oldest industry.39
During the 1770s, “The Wilderness Road, the northern route over the Alleghenies from Virginia, had whiskey for sale at strategic points along its length when it was little more than a path through the forest” and “...stills were the largest, most complex, and most valuable man-made objects to be carried over the mountains.”40
“The [U.S.] War of Independence was to have its effect on drinking habits. With the breaking of commercial links with the West Indies, which remained under British jurisdiction, there was demand for substitutes for rum. The new domains to the west of the Appalachians produced whiskey from their growing of maize; rye whiskey became more popular and a large estate in Kentucky began to make Bourbon.”41
In Basil, Switzerland, a commission investigated the damage caused by abusive drinking.42
George Washington wrote to John Hancock that the “benefits arising from the moderate use of strong Liquor have been experienced in all Armies and are not to be disputed.”43
Corks were first used as a common stopper, which made wine bottle aging possible.46
“...rising nationalism in the post-revolutionary years led American drinkers to switch from rum, a product dependent on supplies from Europe’s Caribbean colonies, to whiskeys distilled from domestically produced grains.”47
Dr. Benjamin Rush published his pamphlet “An Enquiry into the Effects of Spiritous Liquors upon the Human Body, and Their Influence upon the Happiness of Society.” He promoted his ideas that alcoholism is an “odious disease” for which his recomended cures included “whipping the patient severely,” blistering the ankles, bleeding, and purging with toxic substances. Parenthetically, he also promoted his belief that being black was a result of a curable skin disease, which he called negroidism. Intermarrying, he argued, help spread the disease.48
By 1788, grape “Vines had been carried to the New South Wales colony by the first convict fleet.”49
- The first Kentucky whiskey was distilled by the Reverend Elijah Craig, a Baptist minister.50
- After the French Revolution, vineyards owned by the churches, abbeys and nobles were confiscated, divided into small plots, and distributed to many owners. French law divided property equally among heirs, which additionally subdivided vineyard property into ever smaller parcels of ownership. In Burgundy this led to the the rise of negociants or wine brokers who buy wine from many owners, blend it, and then market it under their own names.51
- The fourth president of the U.S., James Madison, proposed a low on beer to encourage “the manufacture of beer in every State in the Union.”52
Folk hero Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) began wandering the northeastern U.S. planting seeds from apples. Being sour, the apples were not intended for eating but for the production of hard cider.53
Parliament made it illegal to pay wages in liquor.54
- A licensing reform allowed grocers in England to retail spirits.55
- The Distilled Spirits Tax of 1791 (the Whiskey Tax) imposed a tax on all distilled spirits produced in the US.56
- The new South Wales Corps “exerted control over the importation and distribution of alcohol in Australia, until they had a monopoly. This process had begun in 1792, when the first governor had returned to Britain, and was completed over the next three years....” and “By 1795, when Governor Hunter had arrived from Britain, alcohol had become the ‘recognized medium of exchange. So much so, that even labor coild only be purchased with spirits.’”57
- Absynthe was first produced in Switzerland by Dr. Pierre Ordinaire.58
During the Whiskey Rebellion that occurred in Pennsylvania, federal troops established the federal government’s ability and willingness to impose its power by arresting those who refused to pay taxes on their products.59
The Sale of Beer act prohibited anyone convicted a second time for selling without a license from ever again holding a license to sell alcoholic beverages.60
Every signer of the American Declaration of Independence, without exception, drank alcoholic beverages.63
Late Eighteenth Century
“Alcohol was virtually unknown in Australia until Europeans began arriving in the late eighteenth century.”61
End of the Eightenth Century
Absinthe began as a tonic in Switzerland at the close of the 18th century.62
To learn more about alcohol and drinking after European Expansion, visit
- 1 Porter, R. English Society in the Eighteenth Century. London: Penguin, 1982, p. 30; Lucia, Salvatore P. A History of Wine as Therapy. Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott, 1963, p.8;
- 2 Aymard, M. Toward the History of Nutrition. In: Forster, R., and Orest, R., (eds.) Food and Drink in History. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979. Pp. 1-16.
- 3 Lukacs, Paul. Inventing Wine. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012, p. 162.
- 4 Lukacs, Paul. Inventing Wine. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012, p. 110.
- 5 Cohen, Nancy. The Comeback of a Colonial Beverage. The Allegheny Front/National Public Radio. 10 November, 2010.alleghenyfront.org/story/comeback-colonial-beverage#transcript.
- 6 Blocker, Jack S. Kaleidoscope in Motion. Drinking in the United States, 1400-2000. In:Holt. Mack P., (ed.) Alcohol: A Social and Cultural History. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2006. Pp. 225-240. P. 227.
- 7 Austin, Gregory A. Perspectves on the History of Psychoactive Substance Use. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1979.
- 8 Watney, John. Mother’s Ruin: A History of Gin. London: Peter Owen, 1976, p. 17; Austin, Gregory A. Alcohol in Western Society from Antiquity to 1800: A Chronological History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC - Clio, 1985, pp. xxi-xxii.
- 9 Souria, Jean-Charles. A History of Alcoholism. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990, p. 20.
- 10 Roueche, Berton. Alcohol in Human Culture. In: Lucia, Salvatore P., (ed.) Alcohol and Civilization. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1963, p. 174.
- 11 French, Henry V. Nineteen Centuries of Drink in England: A History. 2nd ed. London: National Temperance Publication Depot, 1890, p. 271; Samuelson, James. The History of Drink. London: Trubner, 1878, pp. 160-161; Watney, John. Mother’s Ruin: A History of Gin. London: Peter Owen, 1976, p. 16.
- 12 Mathias, Peter. The Brewing Industry in England, 1700 - 1830. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959, p. xxv; Souria, Jean-Charles. A History of Alcoholism. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990, p. 21;
- 13 Watney, John. Mother’s Ruin: A History of Gin. London: Peter Owen, 1976, p.17; Doxat, John. The World of Drinks and Drinking. New York: Drake Publishers, 1971, pp. 98-100.
- 14 Ashton, Thomas S. An Economic History of England: The Eighteenth Century. London: Methuen and Co., 1955, p. 243.
- 15 King, Frank A. Beer Has a History. London: Hutchinson's Scientific and Technical Publications, 1947, p. 117; Younger, William A. Gods, Men, and Wine. Wine and Food Society; Michael Joseph, 1966, p. 341.
- 16 Park, Julie. New Zealand. In: Heath, Dwight B., (ed.) International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995. Pp. 201-212. P. 203.
- 17 Seward, Desmond. Monks and Wine. London, UK: Mitchell Beazley Publishers, 1979, p. 142.
- 18 Portuguese Wine. Corks and Forks website. corksandforks.com/portugal.htm
- 19 Ashton, T.S. An Economic History of England: The Eighteenth Century. London: Methuen and Co., 1955, p. 243.
- 20 Rey, Guillermina Natera. Mexico. In: Heath, Dwight B., (ed.) International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995. Pp.179-189. P. 180.
- 21 Duby, G., and Mandrou, R. A History of French Civilization. Translated by J. Atkinson. New York: Random House, 1964, pp. 356-359.
- 22 Austin, Gregory A. Alcohol in Western Society from Antiquity to 1800: A Chronological History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC - Clio, 1985, p. 310.
- 23 French, Henry V. Nineteen Centuries of Drink in England: A History. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1884, pp. 285-286.
- 24 Murphy, B. The World Book of Whiskey. Chicago: Rand McNall, 1979, p. 172.
- 25 Sutherland, D. Raise Your Glasses: A Lighthearted History of Drinking. London: Macdonald, 1969, p. 16.
- 26 Forbes, R. J. Short History of the Art of Distillation. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1948, p. 190.
- 27 Austin, Gregory A. Alcohol in Western Society from Antiquity to 1800: A Chronological History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC - Clio, 1985, p. 307.
- 28 French, Henry V. Nineteen Centuries of Drink in England: A History. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1884, pp. 286-288.
- 29 Jellinek, E.M. Jellinek Working Papers on Drinking Patterns and Alcohol Problems. Popham, R., editor. Toronto: Addiction Research Foundation, 1976, p. 83.
- 30 Kellenbenz, H. The Organization of Industrial Production. In: Rich, E., and Wilson, C., editors. The Cambridge Economic History of Europe. Vol. 5. The Economic Organization of Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977. Pp. 462-548. P. 537.
- 31 Austin, Gregory A. Perspectves on the History of Psychoactive Substance Use. Rockville, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1979.
- 32 White, William. Slaying the Dragon: The history of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America. Bloomington, IL: Chesnut Health Systems, 1998.
- 33 Frijhoff, W., and Julia, D. The Diet of Boarding Schools at the End of the Ancien Regime. In: Forster, R. and Ranum, O, (ed.). Food and Drink in History. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979. Pp. 73-85. P. 79.
- 34 White, William L. Slaying the Dragon: The History of Addiction Treatment and Recovery in America. Bloomington, IL: Chesnut Health/Lighthouse Institute, 1998.
- 35 Nyberg, Karin and Allebeck, Peter. Sweden. In: Heath, Dwight B., (ed.) International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995. Pp. 280-288. P. 281.
- 36 Mansfield, Stephen. The Search for God and Guinness. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2009, p. xxvii.
- 37 Ukers, W.H. All About Coffee. New York: Tea and Coffee Trade Journal Co., 1935, p. 42.
- 38 Cherrington, Ernest H., (ed.) Standard Encyclopedia of the Alcohol Problem. 6 vols. Westerville, OH: American Issue Publishing Co., 1925-1930. Vol. 5, p. 2331.
- 39 Ford, Gene. Wines, Brews, & Spirits. 4th ed. Seattle, WA and San Francisco, CA: Gene Ford Publications and the Wine Appreciation Guild, 1996, p. 17.
- 40 Gately, Iain. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. NY: Gotham, 2008, p. 216, p. 17.
- 41 Sournia, Jean-Charles. A History of Alcoholism. Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, 1990, p. 29.
- 42 Jellinek, E. Morton. Jellinek Working Papers on Drinking Patterns and Alcohol Problems. Popham, R., (ed.) Toronto: Addiction Research Foundation, 1976, p. 82.
- 43 From George Washington to John Hancock, 16 August 1777. National Archives. Founders Online. .archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-10-02-0622.
- 44 George Washington: His New Nation’s Larest Whiskey Distiller. http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/Controversies/20070531150031.html.
- 45 Haught, R.L. Distilling the truth about George. Oklahoman, February 20, 2003.
- 46 Ford, Gene. Wines, Brews, & Spirits. 4th ed. Seattle, WA and San Francisco, CA: Gene Ford Publications and the Wine Appreciation Guild, 1996, p. 17.
- 47 Blocker, Jack S. Kaleidoscope in Motion. Drinking in the United States, 1400-2000. In:Holt. Mack P., (ed.) Alcohol: A Social and Cultural History. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2006. Pp. 225-240. P. 227.
- 48 Katcher, Brian S. Benjamin Rush’s educational campaign against hard drinking. American Journal of Public Health, 1993, 8(2), 273-281.
- 49 Gately, Iain. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. NY: Gotham, 2008, p. 331.
- 50 Grimes, William. Straight Up or On the Rocks: A Cultural History of American Drink. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993, pp. 52-53; Lender, Mark E. and Martin, James K. Drinking in America. New York: Free Press, 1982, p. 33.
- 51 Taber, George M. Judgment of Paris. California vs. France and the historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine. New York: Scribner, 2005, pp. 26-27.
- 52 Beer History website. beerhistory.com/library/holdings/raley_timetable.shtml
- 53 National Public Radio, Johnny Appleseed Planted Stories of Myth, Adventure. April 17, 2011. NPR website. npr.org/story/135409598
- 54 Magee, Malachy. 1000 Years of Irish Whiskey. Dublin, Ireland: O'Brien Press, 1980, p. 76.
- 55 Magee, Malachy. 1000 Years of Irish Whiskey. Dublin, Ireland: O'Brien Press, 1980, p. 76.
- 56 Simon, Steve. Alexander Hamilton and the Whiskey Tax: The Distilled Spirits Tax of 1791. Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) website. .ttb.gov/public_info/special_feature.shtml.
- 57 Gately, Iain. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. NY: Gotham, 2008, pp. 204-205.
- 58 Gately, Iain. Drink: A Cultural History of Alcohol. NY: Gotham, 2008, p. 334.
- 59 Hoover, Michael. The Whiskey Rebellion: The Distilled Spirits Tax of 1791. Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) website. ttb.gov/public_info/whisky_rebellion.shtml.
- 60 King, Frank A. Beer Has a History. London: Hutchinson's Scientific and Technical Publications, 1947, p. 119.
- 61 Kirkby, Diane. Drinking “The Good Life” Australia c. 1880-1980. In: Holt, Mack P., (ed.) Alcohol: A Social and Cultural History. Oxford, UK: Berg, 2006. Pp.203-223. P. 212.
- 62 Baker, Phil. The Dedalus Book of Absinthe. Cambs, U.K.: Dedalus Ltd., p. 7.
- 63 Burns, Eric. The Spirit of America: A Social History of Alcohol. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2004, p. 182.
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