Medicine: Puritans & Alcohol

What is the leading cause of alcoholism nowadays? Not the sordid living conditions that once led to "Gin Lane," say the editors of the British Medical Journal, but hangovers of old-fashioned Puritanism. "In Shakespeare's time," editorializes the Journal, "there were Puritans who condemned drinking out-and-out, and Falstaff is eloquently scornful of them: 'Nor a man cannot make him laugh; but that's no marvel, he drinks no wine.'

"Yet it is in the regions most dominated by the Puritan ethic that alcoholic excess appears most pronounced. Where the social group withdraws its approval from drinking, it becomes either a solitary vice or a...

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