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 (2012) on tavern culture 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, is 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
Dr 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 and Dr Jonathan Owen (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 regulatory material on public drinking in Old Bailey records, regulatory legislation, pamphleteering and 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 creative or destructive force for communities.

3. Bristol in the 21st century
Dr Antonia Layard (University of Cardiff)
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.

Through this website, project members and subscribers can collaboratively create a taverns bibliography that will become a resource for researchers. Go to the taverns bibliography page here to add an entry. Follow the progress of the project, including blogs, on the main tavernsproject site.
Through this website the project will provide extra content related to the review. Its aim is to collaboratively create a wiki-bibliography that will become a resource for scholars and students. Go to the Communities Bibliography page here to add an entry. Follow what else we are up to, with a regular blog on the progress of the review, as well as interviews with leading scholars, at our main site, earlymoderncommunities