The words “drunken brawl” summon some dramatic imagery: jollity and bonhomie sliding dangerously, after the wrong word, into hot tempers; upended tables and smashed crockery; bruised limbs; and headachy remorse. Is violence like the drunken brawl a transhistorical phenomenon, existing in time wherever we find alcohol mixed with people? Or should we associate such disorder more restrictively with the period before 1700, a time when (at least as popular culture would have it) life was harsher and more violent? Does more alcohol mean, necessarily, more violence?

A. Lynn Martin's Alcohol, Violence, and Disorder in Traditional Europe is framed by an explicitly presentist supposition grounded in his previous research. While the “book attempts to determine if the link between violence and alcohol demonstrated by studies of modern societies can help explain the violence of the past” (p.1), Martin confesses that...

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