By Virginia L. Allen
Honours Thesis, University of Adelaide, 1994
Introduction: Alcohol is mentioned throughout recorded history as fulfilling a significant role in social life. The failed attempts at prohibition in the modern era in the USA graphically illustrates how most of society values and desires alcohol. In modern society where authorities ban alcohol for religious reasons, a healthier trade in alcohol sales and consumption exists. In modern England and most other societies’ alcohol is valued, but consumption is generally restricted to certain occasions and times of the day. In the late medieval and early modern era, however, the pattern of consumption was different. People consumed alcohol throughout the day and alcohol was an integral part of the daily diet. This pattern of consumption was followed by both adults and children. This thesis examines the consumption of alcohol by children in late medieval and early modern England and questions’ attitudes to childhood as reflected in their alcohol consumption.
Well before the medieval period ale played a vital role in everyday life. All large establishments had their own brew houses and even in quite small households the wife usually brewed at home. Taverns and village alehouse thrived, and in the towns ale wives sold their wares through the streets. Ale and later beer retailed this vital role for the next few centuries. People consumed alcohol in the form of ale or beer as freely as we drink water. It appeared at every meal time, and liberally in between.