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The Gin Craze

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the economic and social factors that led to the craze for gin in the 18th century and the moves to control it

In a programme first broadcast in December 2016, Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the craze for gin in Britain in the mid-18th century and the attempts to control it. With the arrival of William of Orange, it became an act of loyalty to drink Protestant, Dutch gin rather than Catholic brandy, and changes in tariffs made everyday beer less affordable. Within a short time, production increased and large sections of the population that had rarely or never drunk spirits before were consuming two pints of gin a week. As Hogarth indicated in his print 'Beer Street and Gin Lane' (1751) in support of the Gin Act, the damage was severe, and addiction to gin was blamed for much of the crime in cities such as London.


Angela McShane
Research Fellow in History at the Victoria and Albert Museum and University of Sheffield

Judith Hawley
Professor of 18th century literature at Royal Holloway, University of London

Emma Major
Senior Lecturer in English at the University of York

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Available now

52 minutes

Last on

Thu 2 Apr 2020 21:30


Angela McShane at the Victoria and Albert Museum

Judith Hawley at Royal Holloway, University of London

Emma Major at the University of York

Intoxicants & Early Modernity: England, 1580-1740 research project

Gin Craze - Wikipedia



Peter Clark, The English Alehouse: A Social History, 1200-1830 (Longman, 1983)

Patrick Dillon, Gin: The Much-Lamented Death of Madam Geneva: The Eighteenth-century Gin Craze (Thistle Publishing, 2013)

Vic Gattrell, The First Bohemians: Life and Art in London's Golden Age (Penguin, 2014)

Peter Haydon, An Inebriated History of Britain (The History Press, 2005)

Henry Jeffreys, Empire of Booze (Unbound, 2016)

Paul Jennings, A History of Drink and the English, 1500-2000 (Routledge, 2016)

James Nicholls, The Politics of Alcohol: A History of the Drink Question in England (Manchester University Press, 2011)

Roy Porter, English Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Penguin, 1990)

Adam Smyth (ed.), A Pleasing Sinne: Drink and Conviviality in Seventeenth-Century England (D. S. Brewer, 2004)

Jenny Uglow, William Hogarth: A Life and a World (Faber and Faber, 2002)

Jessica Warner, Craze: Gin and Debauchery in an Age of Reason (Profile Books, 2002)

Olivia Williams, Gin Glorious Gin: How Mother's Ruin Became the Spirit of London (Headline, 2014)

Last Orders: A Social History of Drinking (History Today, e-book, 2012)



Role Contributor
Presenter Melvyn Bragg
Interviewed Guest Angela McShane
Interviewed Guest Judith Hawley
Interviewed Guest Emma Major
Producer Simon Tillotson


  • Thu 15 Dec 2016 09:00
  • Thu 15 Dec 2016 21:30
  • Thu 2 Apr 2020 09:00
  • Thu 2 Apr 2020 21:30

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