French psychiatrists, who recognised the link between “lunacy” and “inebriety” in the late nineteenth century, propagated the belief that alcoholism was inheritable and would ultimately lead to the degeneration of society, thus fuelling anxiety about mental and physical degeneration across the continent. By the end of the century even moderate drinking was frowned upon by the German state. In the USSR and communist Czechoslovakia, alcohol was believed to compromise a citizen’s ability to work and to threaten productivity.
The papers highlighted the influence of transnational networks in terms of responses to the social and individual problems caused by alcoholism, but they also revealed that alcohol can be perceived very differently in different national contexts and cultures.
Jane Freebody, cand. PhD, Department of History, Philosophy and Culture, Oxford Brookes University