Alcohol, psychiatry and society

Comparative and transnational perspectives, c. 1700–1990s

Editors:
Waltraud Ernst
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Thomas Müller
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This book addresses head-on one of the central debates in the history of alcohol and intoxication, the supposed ‘medicalisation’ of alcohol from the nineteenth century onwards. The chapters show that the very concept of medicalisation as used in the history of medicine and psychiatry needs to be more closely interrogated, with each case study in the volume demonstrating the complexities of medicalisation in practice: limited funding, state control of healthcare, ideological constraints and tensions between legislation and traditional cultural practices. The engagingly written chapters call attention to the many obstacles and challenges that historians face when they explore the relationship between medicine and alcohol. The volume also explores the shift from the use of alcohol in clinical treatment, as part of dietary regimens, incentive to work and reward for desirable behaviour during earlier periods to the emergence of ‘alcoholism’ as a disease category that requires medical intervention, is covered by medical insurance and is considered as a threat to public health. The book’s broad international scope goes well beyond the focus on Western Europe and the USA in existing historical writing. Despite the wide-ranging geographical focus, key themes are consistently brought out: definition and diagnosis, links between alcohol and crime, the rhetoric of social and economic degeneration, the impact of colonialism and the role of families in alcohol treatment.

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