Saturday, July 25, 2009

Question from Zoe - Drinking habits of Tudor people

I've just read a book by Anthony Burgess on Shakespeare in which he says that people in Tudor times were walking around half tipsy due to the fact that they drank nothing but beer and wine.
Is that right? I wouldn't have thought it was possible for anyone to function like that - although it might explain some of the wackier Tudor behaviours.
They must have drunk at least some water!
Also, while we're on the subject of health and hygiene - how did women manage with their monthlies?
My curiosity has just gone into overdrive!

[Note - related threads listed below]

http://tudorhistory.org/queryblog/2008/04/question-from-beth-womens-underwear-and.html

http://tudorhistory.org/queryblog/2008/08/question-from-krissy-effect-of-wine-on.html

http://tudorhistory.org/queryblog/2008/09/question-from-kelly-heavy-alcohol.html

1 comment:

PhD Historian said...

Lara has provided links to the previous threads that address the issue of alcohol consumption, so I will keep my response here brief. "Beer" and ales of the sixteenth century are not really comparable to modern beer. The alcohol content of sixteenth-century beer and ale was lower, the liquid itself was much thicker and had a much higher content of grain residue (starch, sugars, protein, etc).

Wine was not usually consumed full strength, but was instead diluted with water.

So we cannot really think of sixteenth-century citizens sitting around chugging bottles of Bud, MGD, Heineken and Corona, or guzzling from bottles of merlot and chardonnay.

Nonetheless, it seems to me quite likely that the daily consumption of alcohol did render most people what I would call "functional alcoholics." I suspect if deprived of a daily intake of alcohol, most Tudor-era people would suffer some form of withdrawal or "DTs." It would be comparable to the little old church lady who has a glass of sherry each evening for 20 years, then goes into DTs when she doesn't get it (that happens amazingly often with older people in hospitals where they do not get their daily tipple!). They are not ever "drunk" or even "tipsy," but they are nonetheless physically alcohol dependent.