15 - 17 Tavistock Place
London WC1H 9SH
'Moderate Drinking Before The Unit: Medicine and Life Assurance in Britain and the US, c.1860-1930'
James Kneale(University College London)
Wednesday, 24th October 2012, 12.45 pm - 2.00 pm
Venue: Jerry Morris A, Tavistock Place
Moderate drinking ceased to be the main goal of the temperance movement around 1850, but the idea of moderation continued to animate discussions in Britain and elsewhere. This was partly the result of arguments in medicine as to whether alcohol was a food, a medicine, or a poison, but it may also have reflected the way these ideas were taken up by life assurance offices. A number of different strategies for separating moderate and excessive drinkers emerged, from the abstainer's life assurance office forced to insure moderate drinkers, to the use of a fixed daily limit by other firms. The latter strategy was quite successful at first, particularly in the US, though it became increasingly unpopular after Prohibition. These developments anticipate many of the questions surrounding uses of the 'unit' in Britain today, including: Is moderate drinking safe, or simply safer than excess? How does the public react when doctors disagree? And what happens when limits are set by complex networks of actors with different goals, rather than by simple, singular institutions like 'medicine' or 'the state'?