Did people drink as much alcohol throughout history as it is portrayed in media/entertainment?

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Anecdotal, but in Ben Franklin’s autobiography, he describes a co-worker’s alcohol consumption, in a London print shop. The man had a pint before breakfast, one at breakfast, one between breakfast and lunch, one at lunch, one in the afternoon, and one at the end of the day. Six pints per day. This was described as typical for most of the workers, in his particular print shop. Franklin makes this habit seem unhealthy; but he does so from a productivity and lethargy standpoint, rather than liver or stomach problems.


Beer was much safer to drink than water from the creek in early colonial America.


Alcohol was drunk more often in daily usage due to health issues with potable water. Dysentery and cholera and other water-borne diseases were a very real threat in the past. In the Greco-Roman world, wine was often diluted with water and drank. It was viewed as a barbarian act to drink wine without diluting it with water. The wine would have sterilized most pathogens in the water. Obviously, people still drank wine without diluting it, it’s simply that it was frowned upon. In ancient Egypt and in many Celtic societies, beer was present as a thick, nutritious porridge-like drink that was consumed as a meal replacement. It contained alcohol, but a small enough amount that it would have been unlikely to cause any type of *drunkenness.* So yes, alcohol was consumed in large quantities, but it was often weaker than what we see sold today in the Western world. And people have always gotten drunk one way or the other, so strong alcoholic drinks obviously existed for the purpose.


Yes as a matter of fact, probably even more! One example is Pilgrims from the old world often kept beer on ships for long sea journeys, rather than water, because water can become contaminated with bacteria, and alcohol kills bacteria.


Absolutely. One thing I’ve learned from reading biographies about presidents is how drunk they seemed to be at dinners. They often started their days with hard cider too. Some definitely had health issues, Abigail Adams’ brother and some of her sons struggled with and died from alcoholism.