Monday, 21 May 2012

Drunkenness in Scotland 1913 - 1919

The Scots have a reputation as a bunch of pissheads. Is there any statistical proof? Or is it a terrible slur on their national character?

Not sure I have a proper answer to that. What I can say with some certainty is that during WW I they became a more sober bunch. Not necessarily voluntarily. Here are the figures:
Drunkenness in Scotland.—Mr. Galbraith asked the Secretary for Scotland what was the number of proceedings for drunkenness in Scotland during the calendar year 1913 to 1920, inclusive, distinguishing between proceedings against men and women ?

Mr. Munro: The figures for the year 1920 are not yet available, but the number of proceedings for offences involving drunkenness (exclusive of offences for breach of the peace) for the other years mentioned is as follows :—

Year. Men. Women. Total.
1913 38,443 11,773 50,216
1914 39,306 11,859 51,165
1915 36,438 11,739 48,177
1916 24,388 8,713 33,101
1917 14,922 5,568 20,490
1918 9,168 2,395 11,503
1919 17,722 4,250 21,072

Brewers' Journal 1921, Page 106.

I often talk of contextualisation. This is a perfect opportunity to indulge in a little.

One of the things that talk the wind out of the sails of prohibitionists was the obvious decrease in drunkenness after WW I. A major contributing factor was the fall in strength of beer. That and an economic depression that left many working class families with little cash.

Using the same rhetoric as before the war, the prohibitionists arguments became increasingly out of step with reality. Having failed to achieve their dream of total prohibition, they struggled to keep momentum behind their campaign. Disappointing results in the Scottish local veto polls didn't help. The temperance movement began to fizzle out between the wars. WW II, when the government didn't just ignore their calls for restrictions on alcohol but firmly told them to shut up, just about finished it off.

Is it possible to see a correlation between the strength and quantity of beer brewed in Scotland and the number of convictions for drunkenness? Let's give it a try. To get an absolute figure for the amount of alcohol in the beer, I'm using standard barrels.

Drunkenness in Scotland
Year. Total. 1913 = 100 standard barrels brewed in Scotland 1913 = 100
1913 50,216 100 1,844,109 100
1914 51,165 101.9 1,983,489 107.6
1915 48,177 95.9 1,739,819 94.3
1916 33,101 65.9 1,619,119 87.8
1917 20,490 40.8 1,425,067 77.3
1918 11,503 22.9 762,264 41.3
1919 21,072 42.0 717,424 38.9
Brewers' Journal 1921, page 246.
Brewers' Journal 1921, Page 106.

Looks to me like there's a connection between the number of standard barrels of beer brewed and the number of convictions for drunkenness.

Well there's something WW I achieved: reducing the number of drunks rolling around the street.


Anonymous said...

So if more beer is brewed then more people will be getting drunk! That seems logical enough.
After WW1 there were over a million fewer men of drinking age than before; those who were dead and the forgotten host of those still in hospital.

Ed Carson said...

Not only after The Great War were there fewer single men of drinking age around, but during as well!