Intoxicated Britain


I am particularly excited about the forthcoming database from the Intoxicants and Early Modernity project, which will track the "production, traffic, consumption, and representation of intoxicants" in early modern Britain.

My own interest stems not from the question of the history of intoxicants per se, but rather from the distribution and consumption of sacramental wine--that is, the ways in which communion wine was purchased and distributed in the late Reformation.

The sacrament, of course, stands at the center of religious ritual, but in early modern Britain, it became so much more: a test of loyalty, a local identification, and a communal expression of social and religious orthodoxy.

We know that in post-Reformation Europe, the bread of communion became desacralized, with the hotter sort insisting on the least refined bread possible for the sacrament, in order to emphasize the separation from pre-Reformation transubstantive communion.

My own curiosity in the project stems from the extension of communion in two kinds--that is, both bread and wine--to the communion at large. Who sold communion wine? Who purchased it, and how? What can we learn about the economic costs of conformity from this project? I very much look forward to learning more.


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