Friday, 18 January 2019

Dry January and the Temperance Movement

For many it’s the time of year to take on Dry January the UKs one-month booze free challenge. There are many benefits to abstaining from alcohol and the challenge often goes hand-in-hand with a desire to begin the year with a health-kick. However, 20th January is said to be the day that most people give up their pledge to go dry for January and fall off the ‘New Year New Me’ band wagon!

Cutting out alcohol from your life is, of course, not a new phenomenon. During the 19th Century and early 20th Century the Temperance Movement was a social movement against the consumption of alcohol. Members of the movement typically criticised alcohol intoxication, demanded new laws against the selling of alcohol and promoted complete abstinence (teetotalism).


[L DIBF, Certificate of membership of the UK Alliance, 1879]
Bertram Fox played a pivotal role in the Temperance Movement in Hull. A Temperance lecturer, general secretary of the Citizens’ Committee to conduct a campaign in support of the Government Licensing Bill, District Superintendent of the United Kingdom Alliance and Honourable Convenor of the Hull United Temperance Board, he helped to promote and encourage self-restraint from alcohol consumption. His papers held at collection reference L DIBF include numerous leaflets, pamphlets, correspondence, photographs and postcards.

[L DIBF, Effect of Licensing Bill postcard, c.1908]
Other records found amongst our collections relating to the consumption of alcohol include an essay discussing the evils of strong liquor, how abstinence is key if you want to be the best in sport, and states that ‘prisons, hospitals, and the divorce court are in no small degree tenanted by people with the “alcohol habit”’ [ref. C DFX/41/5]. In addition, statistics relating to the Licensing Bill and regarding the difference in alcohol consumption between the classes can be seen below.


[C DPLT/3, The Drinks Bill statistics, 1912]
The Licensing Bill of 1908, introduced by Herbert Asquith’s Liberal government sought to radically reduce the number of licensed premises in the UK, which provoked vigorous opposition from brewers, publicans and all suppliers associated with the industry.  

1908 was a significant year as it saw individuals in the trade who were traditionally divided by sectionalism and regionalism come together to amalgamate their power in order to protect the trades’ interests they had so long enjoyed and profited from.

So when you’re struggling to stay dry for January it may be useful to remember the history of the Temperance Movement in its warning of the evils of liquor as well as the efforts made by the trade to keep the alcohol industry thriving, and go easy on yourself in this time of conflict but remember, in the words of Oscar Wilde, “everything in moderation, including moderation.”


Laura Wilson
Archivist/Librarian

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