James Nicholls / The Politics of Alcohol: A History of the Drink Question in England, Ch 2 / 2009

Oliver Cromwell

Ch 2 – Healths, Toasts, and Pledges: Political Drinking in the 17th Century. Thomas Cranmer, religious forbidding of “open reasoning” on scripture in pubs. But mostly, concern of “voluntary madness,” willful destruction of rationality, God’s gift to man. Thomas Heywood, Philocothonista, or the Drunkard, Opened, Dissected, and Anatonized. Blamed the Danes, pagan healths, wassail-bowls. Thomas Young, Milton’s tutor, blamed the low countries for introduction of toasts. St. Augustine cited, pledging “doth yet smell of paganism.” Prynne criticized the court for its healths. 1655 Cromwell, using the Major Generals, shut down big portion of alehouses. At Civil War, defeated Royalists drank wine, toasted exiled king. Elite wine culture carried specific political signification. Wine imported to England. In Royalist literature, an entire genre of “battle between wine and ale.” Royalist poet: “From hops and grains let us purge our brains;/ They do smell of anarchy.” Civil War transformed politics of taste into a concrete politics of ritual expression. Before, ale = peasantry. Beer = urban artisan and commercial types. Wine = courtly. After Restoration, the “connection between sobriety and sedition was clear.” Because Cromwell was so ant-drunkesness. Vs. Royalist position, drink as pleasurable liberality. Tory = claret, Whig = beer. Tory saw wine as sophistication, good taste, conviviality, wit, loyalty to crown. Whig saw wine as snobbishness, continental effeteness, Catholic-looking Francophilia. Tory saw beer as tedious, miserable, violent. Whig saw beer as honest, hearty, unpretentious, and English. Such were the party politics of the 1680s.


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