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Prohibition in Britain

Lord Kinross describes how, during the first half of the eighteenth century, gin-drinking became a serious social evil.

Cruikshank's engraving of The Gin Shop (1829)The accession to the English throne of William and Mary marked a “Glorious Revolution,” not only in English political institutions but also in English drinking habits. In effect, it turned England from a country of ale- and wine-drinkers into a country of spirit-drinkers.

The impulse behind this change was the introduction from Holland of Geneva, otherwise juniper or genièvre, otherwise gin, for which King William was given the credit. A rhymester and distiller named Alexander Blunt thus apostrophized him:

Great Nassau,

Immortal name! Britain’s deliverer

From slavery, from wooden shoes and chains, 

Dungeons and fire; attendants on the sway

Of tyrants bigoted and zeal accurst,

Of holy butchers, prelates insolent,

Despotic and blood thirsty! He who did

Expiring liberty revive (who wrought Salvation wondrous! God-like Herd!)

He it was, who to compleat our happiness

With liberty restored, Geneva introduced.

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