The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0334  Wednesday, 4 June 2008

From:         Jim Carroll <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:         Tuesday, 03 Jun 2008 18:31:20 -0400
Subject:      Why Shakespeare had all that malted barley in his cellar.

I assumed that the situation described below was generally the case, but there 
are some specific numbers reported here that are interesting (from "Cooking with 
Shakespeare" by Mark Morton and Andrew Coppolino, Greenwood Press, 2008, p. 267):

It is probably not even an exaggeration to say that pretty much everyone in the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was in a continuous state of mild 
inebriation. A Berkshire farmer named Robert Loder, for example, kept accounts 
from 1611 to 1618 showing that each person in his household drank, on average, 
between 1 and 1 and a half gallons of beer a day. Likewise, during Elizabeth's 
reign, the royal household consumed approximately 600,000 gallons of beer 
annually. That household supported between 1000 and 1500 aristocrats and 
servants, meaning that each person tossed back between 400 and 600 gallons a 
year, or about 1 to 1 and a half gallons a day. This included children. Dietary 
handbooks did not debate whether children should drink alcohol, but how much. 
Richard West, in his 1619 "Schoole of Vertue", was typical: "Let not a childe 
drinke above twice or thrice at the most at one meal, and that gently, and not 
without reason: who bestoweth wine and beer on his childe beyond reason, 
defameth and abuseth him."

Jim Carroll

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