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Mapping alcohol: Health, policy and the geographies of problem drinking in Britain

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Pages 233-249 | Published online: 10 Jul 2009
 

Abstract

While parallels can be drawn between contemporary problem drinking in Britain and apparently similar cases from the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, little attention has been paid to the ways in which drink is represented as a spatial problem. Closer analysis reveals that the mapping of ‘clusters’ of alcohol outlets or trouble spots has waxed and waned over the last hundred and fifty years, and that the appearance, disappearance and re-emergence of the cluster in policy discussions owes a good deal to changing understandings of the nature of public drinking. Both temperance and contemporary epidemiological approaches favour the cluster because they assume that the supply of alcohol lies at the root of the problems seen to be associated with drink, and mapping clusters makes this supply visible. In contrast the disease theory of alcoholism favours individual rather than social causes, and has little use for maps of clusters; as a consequence the cluster seems to disappear from discussions in the middle years of the twentieth century. The paper concludes that the history of problem drinking demonstrates the need to pay closer attention to changing constructions of drink as problem and the need for a more sophisticated understanding of the history of medicine and public health. It also makes clear the need to look beyond the State and the market as spaces in which the risks of alcohol are calculated.

Notes

Notes

[1]  See http://www.nwph.net/alcohol/lape/for maps and discussion.

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