"A Medical Cromwell to Depose King Alcohol": Medical Scientists, Temperance Reformers, and the Alcohol Problem in Britain

Joanne Woiak


A largely neglected chapter in the history of the British temperance movement is the
role played by anti-alcohol doctors who investigated the health consequences of
drinking. At first, advocacy of teetotalism was often injurious to their personal and
professional reputations; by the l870s, however, temperance reform had become
more respectable and many doctors now believed that their professional interests
might actually be advanced by establishing themselves as authorities on alcohol.
Their experience and objectivity, along with the cultural authority of science in
general, validated their claims to expertise. ln the early twentieth century, two new
groups of medical scientists challenged the credibility of the temperance doctors
and appropriated for their own work the mantle of objective scientific truth.

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