From rollicking Romans to boozed-up Brits, Mark Forsyth explores humans’ tendency to get completely and utterly sloshed.
A Short History of Drunkenness would make a great gift for friends who like a drop or two. Forsyth keeps the jokes coming as he skips between civilisations. Starting with sozzled howler monkeys and moving to early human settlements, he claims that homo sapiens have a long history of boozing.
“And so in about 9000BC, we invented farming because we wanted to get drunk on a regular basis.”
Mark Forsyth, A Short History of Drunkenness
Each chapter is dedicated to a different time. You won’t find a continuous overview of history but there are plenty of entertaining facts. Discover that Sumerian bars were always owned by women and that ancient Greece philosopher Socrates was said to never get blotto, no matter how much he drank.
Forsyth also shares the story behind eighteenth century London’s gin-obsession. He claims the city’s dedication to the demon drink began as a royal plan to keep famine at bay. Given the number of Londoners who keeled over, or worse, after drinking gin that was up to 80 ABV, you’ll need to read chapter fourteen to decide whether King William III created more problems than he solved.
This whimsical version of history is seen through alcohol tinted googles. The anecdotes and flippant asides make it a quick book to read. But be warned, when the title says ‘short’ that’s exactly what it means.
Verdict: A book that does what it says on the cover. Expect a brief overview of alcohol from prehistory to prohibition. Don’t recommend to teetotallers.