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Taverns and Drinking in Early America

, 328 pages

6 halftones, 10 line drawings

June 2004



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Taverns and Drinking in Early America

Sharon V. Salinger's Taverns and Drinking in Early America supplies the first study of public houses and drinking throughout the mainland British colonies. At a time when drinking water supposedly endangered one's health, colonists of every rank, age, race, and gender drank often and in quantity, and so taverns became arenas for political debate, business transactions, and small-town gossip sessions. Salinger explores the similarities and differences in the roles of drinking and tavern sociability in small towns, cities, and the countryside; in Anglican, Quaker, and Puritan communities; and in four geographic regions. Challenging the prevailing view that taverns tended to break down class and gender differences, Salinger persuasively argues they did not signal social change so much as buttress custom and encourage exclusion.

Sharon V. Salinger is chair of the Department of History at the University of California, Riverside.

"The most comprehensive survey to date of this curiously underinvestigated aspect of early American social life... [Contains] a wealth of illustrative and amusing anecdotes... Well researched and informative."

"Offers a fresh perspective on one of the colonial period's most important social institutions and the drinking behavior that was central to it... Salinger's work is compelling throughout... A significant and satisfying book."

"A richly detailed study that helps us understand popular and genteel culture in early America, the place of drink in everyday life, and the relationship between law and perceptions of disorderly behavior."

" Taverns and Drinking in Early America pulls together the results of many other works focused more narrowly on particular colonies or regions and provides a much greater synthesis than we have ever enjoyed before... A well-written, very entertaining overview of an important subject."

"A thorough overview of this often overlooked institution in early America."

"Salinger gives us the best description yet available of the nature of tavern life and the efforts of colonial governments to manage it."

"Salinger's book offers the broadest study yet of the role of taverns in colonial life, and readers will find a good deal of useful information presented in clear and accessible prose."

"This important book offers the first recent attempt at a comparative synthesis combined with a general interpretation of tavern life."

"Full of information and bristling with insights, this fine book on the many functions of alcohol and taverns in early America deserves a place on the bookshelf of every American historian. Working from a variety of sources, Salinger sweeps across all the mainland British colonies and shows the centrality of taverns in the conduct of colonial life."

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