Shifting categories of the social harms associated with alcohol: examples from late medieval and early modern England
By Jessica Warner
American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 87:11 (1997)
Abstract: This paper offers a historical perspective on our own attempts to define the social harms associated with the abuse of alcohol. Challenging the notion that categories are necessarily objective and constant, it instead emphasizes the extent to which even harms that are visible and thus susceptible to measurement are in fact socially constructed.
English sources from the preindustrial era revealed six broad categories of social harms associated with the abuse of alcohol. Four of the categories consisted of visible harms in the form of income lost, domestic violence, brawling, and accidents, all of which are still recognized as social harms associated with the abuse of alcohol. The other two categories, reversal of the established moral order and susceptibility to trickery, were of an essentially intrinsic or subjective nature and have since dropped from the lexicon of social harms.