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Rituals, Routines, and Materiality: Drinking Too Much and Just Enough in Early Modern England

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


A persistent obsession with regulating amounts in early modern England meant thousands of retailers were brought before the courts for selling alcohol in short quantity or at excessive prices. Yet it is likely that neither the legislation for standard capacities and prices nor its enforcement in alehouses and taverns bore much relation to what customers and consumers understood to be ‘just enough’ or ‘too much’. This paper argues that such ideas had much more to do with the complimentary physical attributes of vessel, drink, and the precise situation of drinkers. Through investigating quotidian ideas of quantity, capacity and the materiality of drinking, this paper explores an early modern conundrum: why drinking from tiny ‘fuddling’ gaming cups would routinely be understood as excessive, while in certain ritual circumstances drinking from a baluster quart-glass-full in one go could be seen as ‘enough.’