Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Drink: A Social History of America
by Andrew Barr
It is quite clear on reading Drink: A Social History of America, that Andrew Barr is an historian and lover of food and drink rather than an analyst. Drink facilitates the telling of America's history from the indigenous people and their customs, through to the early settlers and how they went to great lengths to acquire or brew their favoured beverage, as water was considered unsafe and unsavoury to drink. The 500 page tome is a fascinating history of America's culture and religions and it is also clear that drink had important implications on America's politics. Oh for such a sympathetic politician nowadays. Thomas Jefferson wrote ' I think a tax on wine is a tax on the health of our citizens'. Interestingly the American tradition in the eighteenth and nineteenth century was to drink ale or cider with your meal with wine being served afterwards.

Subjects such as Prohobition are covered in detail in the book, but do not dominate what is a balanced and witty account of North America's history. Nor are non alcoholic drinks forgotten; The Tea Act of 1773 gave The East India Company, who held the monopoly on tea, the right to import tea directly to the US without paying duty in a British port first. Infact this Act reduced the price of tea to Americans, but the locally paid duty was seen as an affront to the patriots whose boarding of three tea ships in December 1773 led toThe Boston Tea Party and the seeds of Independence were sown.

Andrew Barr discusses social and responsible drinking. He is sometimes contraversial, but always informed, and illustrates, through history, that strict control mechanisms are counter productive . He suggests that a culture of tolerance coupled with legislation to control problem areas such as drink driving results in a more balanced society with less incidence of misuse.

By exploring North America's social religious and political history, a fascinating insight is gained and a better understanding is acheived of the complex and multi-racial society that makes up the USA of today.

DRINK: A Social History of America is published by Carroll & Graff Publishers, Inc 19 West 21st Street Suite 601 New York NY 10010. Tel: (212) 627 8590. Fax: (212) 627 8490.

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