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Temperance Movement - 1835

The outcry against the dangers of alcohol in Britain became loudest during the 1800s.

It was a time of unprecedented growth in a rapidly industrialising country, which made the problems of drunkenness more evident.

Also, for the first time, there were safe, and affordable, alternatives to beer such as tea and pasturised milk.

In 1835, the British Association for the Promotion of Temperance was formed.

At first, temperance usually involved a promise not to drink spirits, and members continued to consume wine and beer.

However, a stronger stance was soon taken by the teetotal movement to campaign against the consumption of all alcoholic drinks.

Key figures

One of the most important figures in the movement was a Catholic priest, Theobald Matthew, who persuaded thousands of people in Ireland to sign the pledge.

Quakers and members of the Salvation Army also played an active role in trying to persuade the House of Commons to pass legislation to restrict the sale of alcohol.

In some parts of Britain, public houses were forced to close on Sundays and permission was rarely granted to allow new ones to open.

The National Temperance Federation that was formed in 1884 became closely associated with the Liberal Party, whereas the Conservative Party tended to support the interests of the drink trade.

Driven to drink

In How the Poor Live (1889), author George Sims, an advocate of the Temperance movement, wrote about the appalling living conditions that drove the poor to drink.

He said: "Drink gives them the Dutch courage necessary to go on living; drink dulls their senses and reduces them to the level of the brutes they must be to live in such places."

"The drink dulls every sense of shame, takes the sharp edge from sorrow, and leaves the drinker for awhile in a fools' paradise."

He could see that the Temperance movement would not succeed unless better homes and sanitary laws were provided.

It has been estimated that by 1900 about a tenth of the adult population were total abstainers from alcohol.


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