Review by Choice Review
Sournia offers a work that is a mix of social and popular history (alcohol consumption and public drinking habits), economic history (the industry producing and marketing the product), a political history (efforts to tax and/or prohibit the products), and medical history (the long quest to identify the disease or syndrome). Each line of approach has its own history, often a complex and heavily contested one; combined in a short study these histories offer a wealth of information but a weaker control of the mountain of data and its interpretation. Some of the book's lessons and themes address social policy, past and future, though they usually stop short of crusading against addiction (or even use). Other chapters simply assess the historical records of drink and its results and evils, as best such information can be reconstructed. Excessive drinking goes back to the ancient world, and recent statistics more than confirm the universal incidence of the problem. Medical recognition of alcoholism crystallized in the mid-19th century. Sournia shows how the pendulum of interpretation, of government policy, and of medical research swings back and forth. Readers must applaud the amount of material he has assembled and his conclusion of how difficult it is to gauge the future from the past. All levels. -J. T. Rosenthal, SUNY at Stony Brook
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
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