A Short History of Drunkenness


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short history of drunkennessMark Forsyth’s new book A Short History of Drunkenness: How, Why, Where, and When Humankind Has Gotten Merry from the Stone Age to the Present, (Viking, 2018) traces humankind’s love affair with booze from our primate ancestors through to Prohibition.

Almost every culture on earth has drink, and where there’s drink there’s drunkenness. But in every age and in every place drunkenness is a little bit different. It can be religious, it can be sexual, it can be the duty of kings or the relief of peasants. It can be an offering to the ancestors, or a way of marking the end of a day’s work.

Forsyth uncovers Neolithic Shamans, who drank to communicate with the spirit world, marvels at how Greeks got giddy and Romans got rat-arsed, and finds out how bars in the Wild West were never quite like the movies – a history of the world at its inebriated best.

Born in London in 1977, Mark Forsyth (a.k.a The Inky Fool) was given a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary as a christening present and has never looked back. His book The Etymologicon was a Sunday Times Number One Bestseller and his TED Talk ‘What’s a snollygoster?’ has had more than half a million views. He has also written a specially commissioned essay ‘The Unknown Unknown’ for Independent Booksellers Week and the introduction for the new edition of the Collins English Dictionary. He lives in London with his dictionaries, and blogs at blog.inkyfool.com.

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