"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.