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Gender, Space, and Drunkenness: Liverpool's Licensed Premises, 1860–1914

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The British licensing system regulated public houses both as social centers and as providers of alcohol. In the northern port city of Liverpool—which police statistics consistently showed to be one of the most drunken cities in Britain—the spatial technology of licensing worked to shape drinking and drunkenness with a particular emphasis on the regulation of female drinking. Between 1850 and 1915 women accounted for 40 percent of all apprehensions for drunkenness in the city. Women who entered public houses were subjected to greater public scrutiny than men, and the law also helped construct the pub as a masculine space. Social reformers also played a crucial role in shaping public debates about licensing and licensed premises. Allied to concerns about prostitution, subsequent attempts to prevent women from using pubs risked encouraging private drinking. In this way, changes to licensed space influenced behavior even in unlicensed and thus formally unregulated spaces such as the home, where the consumption of alcohol could not be controlled in the same way as in the public house. Although its decisions and policies seemed only to apply to public houses, the licensing system played a much broader role in the gendered construction and consumption of urban space.

Keywords: Liverpool; drunkenness; embriaguez; gender; género; licensed premises; premisas de licencias; prostitución; prostitution

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Sidney Sussex College and Department of Geography,University of Cambridge,

Publication date: 2012-05-01

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