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Barstool Babels: Multilingual Drinking in Early Modern Europe

Fri, April 1, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Park Plaza, Floor: Fourth Floor, Tremont Room


Writing about his travels through Germany in the 1590s, Fynes Moryson argued that anyone wanting to get to know the Germans would first have to get drunk with them: ‘he that wil be welcome in their company… must needs practice this excesse in some measure’. Drinking while abroad brought English travellers into contact with foreign practices of sociability and intoxication. Drawing on the phrasebooks that taught English readers to drink in European vernaculars, alongside manuscript and printed travel accounts, this paper will frame intoxication as international and multilingual. Drinking involved rituals that could be compared and questioned, and national or linguistic identities constructed. It could be a source of rivalry, as well as a way of building solidarities between different communities. Learning how to drink in a foreign country was an education in behaviour, language, and ritual: drinkers abroad learnt to see Europe – and England – in the bottom of a glass.