Taverns, locals and street corners

Taverns, locals and street corners: Cross-chronological studies in community drinking, regulation and public space

This AHRC Connected Communities pilot study on tavern culture (2012-13) ranges from early modern Europe to the present day. It investigates whether today’s real and imagined patterns of drinking – people congregating in public spaces at night, sold alcohol and revelling – are recurring practices and representations of drinking and of competing communities. It looks at how public space is used, and how tavern culture produces places and social groupings; how these spaces are regulated in the name of order, morality and health; the rhetorics of drinking and taverns, of pleasure, harm and authority. The project asks if the performance of drinking, and ideas of spectacle and carnival, are still part of modern drinking culture, and if contemporary questions about public policy on drinking and ‘anti-social behaviour’ find resonances in the past.

The participants, co-ordinated by Dr Fabrizio Nevola (PI), are investigating three separate periods and places.

1. Florence in the 16th century
Prof Fabrizio Nevola and Dr David Rosenthal (University of Bath)
This strand starts by using a detailed ownership and rental census of 1561 to map prominent Florentine taverns and the streetscapes (shops, workshops, houses) around them, in order to locate the tavern in urban space and better understand its emplacement within communities and networks. It then looks at the regulatory and, drawing on a range of archival and printed sources, wider discursive regimes surrounding taverns and drinking between the mid-16th and mid-17th centuries, as economic instability and the moral imperatives of religious reform combined to make the tavern a fiercely contested site in the shaping of identity and community.

2. London in the 18th century
Dr Jane Milling (University of Exeter)
This strand examines how the outcry against public drinking in 18th-century London was matched by its championing in terms of commerce and sociability. It investigates material on public drinking in Old Bailey records, in regulatory legislation, pamphleteering and in civic society treatises. It also examines theatrical and visual representations of public drinking and disorder (eg Hogarth’s Beer Street and Gin Lane, 1751). This study asks what was at stake for the competing communities in these public spaces, and what do representations of communal drinking reveal about it as a creative or destructive force for communities.

3. Bristol in the 21st century
Prof Antonia Layard (University of Birmingham)
This strand focuses on one or more pubs in Bristol in order to investigate modern regulation and governance of drinking. Through interviews with owners, police, users, and town centre managers, it asks what kind of regulatory regime pubs are subject to and the implications of this both for the establishment itself and for its surroundings. It looks at how the law makes the pub a public space, but one in which entry can nonetheless be refused (dress codes, disorderly conduct). It also examines non-legal forms of governance that help to define clientele and behaviour, such as the use of pricing, signage and decor, and security.  The project also asks what the analyses of regulatory strategies from Renaissance Florence and Georgian London might tell us about pubs today.

This website acts as a blogging site, in which the participants can post their reflections on the progress of their own research, and the connections we are making that feed into the project as a whole. Followers of the site are encouraged to comment on themes and debates. This site will link to a wiki-bibliography, related websites and resources. It will also post information on events – including a public dissemination event that will take place in mid 2013.

History tourism app
The Taverns, Locals and Streetcorners project has attracted follow-on AHRC funding to create a history tourism app for Florence. This will ready for download in 2014.  A blog documenting the development of the app is also on this website.

7 Responses to Taverns, locals and street corners

  1. jimcheval says:

    Too bad there’s no French component to this. But for comparisons’ sake some of the information in Fournier’s “Histoire des hôtelleries, cabarets, hôtels garnis, restaurants et cafés, et des anciennes communautés et confreries d’hôteliers, de marchands de vins, de restaurateurs, de limonadiers, etc..” might be of interest. Rather tangentially too, one of Voltaire’s Great Causes, that of the Chevalier de la Barre, involved a lot of behavior in the taverns just outside Abbeville (early modern French taverns were often beyond the city walls and the corresponding price controls). This may be of particular interest for the current theme, since it brought young (and misbehaving) aristocrats into contact with workers and made the latter witness to behavior and attitudes that normally would have escaped their notice. Eliminate the taverns (and at least one billiards salon) and there probably never would have been a case.

  2. Desbuissons says:

    Indeed. Between Londres 18st century and Bristol 21st century, there should be Paris 19st century. If you are looking for a French academic partnership, we are a group of French researchers (historians, art historians, sociologists…) working on cafés and food culture during that period really interested in your great, fascinating program.

    • Thanks for your interest! The idea of a comparative project of this sort was an experiment and we are very interested to see how a French strand of responses has emerged to these first posts. We’d be happy to be in touch about possible future collaboration.

      • LECOUTRE Matthieu says:

        I think I could probably help you. In collaboration with the university of Tours and Dijon (France), I am currently working on taverns in the Early Modern France (17th and 18th centuries): sociability, consumption, economy, norms, justice.

  3. Jake GR says:

    Is the Historical tourism app still available? I’ve been looking for it and I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

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