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A Social History of Alcohol and Other Drugs since 2000: Home

By David M. Fahey


This essay first appeared in the June 2024 issue of Choice (volume 61 | issue 10)


This bibliographical essay supplements an essay by this author published by Choice in December 2000 as “I’ll Drink to That!: The Social History of Alcohol.” Like its predecessor, this new essay looks principally at the social history of alcoholic drink, but it adds selected references to publications about other drugs. The bibliography is confined to books in the English language.

In 2000 the major scholarly society promoting the social history of alcohol was the Alcohol and Temperance History Group (ATHG), a mostly North American organization, which published The Social History of Alcohol Review. Recognizing that alcohol was only one among many psychoactive drugs, the ATHG reorganized itself in 2004 as the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, which today publishes the journal The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs

The old bibliography mentioned what was then a forthcoming book. In 2001, David T. Courtwright published Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World, which identified alcohol as an important drug but certainly not the only one. His opening chapter, “The Big Three,” looked at alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, followed by “The Little Three,” covering opium, cannabis, and coca. Drugs could be illegal, regulated, or neither.

By the twenty-first century academic jobs for alcohol historians became scarce, for historians of illegal drugs perhaps less so. They taught in a greater variety of academic programs, and they also could more easily move beyond academe. Research grants were easier to find for scholarship on heroin than for lager beer. Public concern over opiates, cocaine, meth, and other illegal drugs was greater than for old-fashioned booze. Publishers and book buyers also preferred “other drugs.”

Currently, in the early 2020s, The Social History of Alcohol and Drugs (see above) has three coeditors, all of them specialists in other drugs, including abused pharmaceutical drugs. Beginning in November 2021, to provide balance, the journal arranged with the British-based Drinking Studies Network to provide an associate editor to attract alcohol-related articles and book reviews. The website for the Drinking Studies Network offers information about publications and conferences.

David M. Fahey is emeritus professor of history at Miami University in Ohio.

Works Cited