Stella Moss: ‘Red biddy ruin': Methylated spirit consumption and the control of deviant drinking in interwar Britain
Posted on 03-09-2013
This paper considers the phenomenon of methylated spirit consumption in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. In the wake of claims about the increased prevalence of ‘meths’ consumption at this time, there emerged a range of moralised anxieties about deviant drinking, together with calls for the tighter regulation of meths sales to combat its use as an intoxicant. While the consumption of meths was not unknown in the era before World War One, the 1920s saw
growing concerns about the manufacture and consumption of ‘red biddy’, a highly potent mix of meths and cheap red wine or port. That meths consumption was thought to be increasing provoked numerous legislative and medico-moral investigations, at both local and national level. Much of the ensuing debate centred on questions of control, given that the existing licensing apparatus contained no regulatory provisions relating to the sale and consumption of
meths. With red biddy linked overwhelmingly to abject poverty and vagrancy, lobbying groups such as the Society for the Study of Inebriety focussed on the social and moral problems associated with meths drinking, together with the considerable medical dangers posed to the individual consumer. This paper casts fresh light on discourses about
consumption and deviance, and in moving beyond representations of drunkenness associated with more common types of alcohol, adds new depth to understandings of intoxication and its regulation in modern Britain.

 

Under Control?

Location: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

"Under Control? Alcohol and Drug Regulation, Past and Present"  conference was held at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine 21-23rd June 2013. Under Control? was supported by the Alcohol Research UK; Bowling Green State University; the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, Brock University (Faculty of Applied Health Sciences); the Society for the Study…

More from this event

Lifeline Project & FEAD Read more

Welcome to Lifeline and FEAD (Film Exchange on Alcohol and Drugs). This project has been shaped by the wealth of experience, openness, and knowledge of the contributors. You are invited to comment on the clips, which are supported by footnotes to which you can add. FEAD is an ongoing Lifeline Project initiative.

Lifeline Project: In 1971 the Lifeline Project opened a day centre for drug users in Manchester. Since its foundation Lifeline has grown and developed, and now works in a diverse range of settings across the UK. Our purpose is to relieve poverty, sickness and distress among those persons affected by addiction to drugs of any kind, and to educate the public on matters relating to drug misuse.