Alcohol, medicine and Irish society, 1890-1970    


  • Dr Alice Mauger

    University College Dublin

Project summary

There has been little consideration of medicine’s influence on attitudes towards and treatment of alcoholism in Ireland, in historical contexts. While the ‘drunken Irish’ stereotype, still prevalent today, has been assessed from several viewpoints, there has yet to be an investigation of how international and Irish medical communities interpreted, informed and/or absorbed this label. 

This project will explore medicine’s role in framing and treating alcohol abuse in Ireland from the 1890s, when there was state intervention in the form of short-lived inebriate reformatories, to the 1970s, when rising numbers of alcohol-related asylum admissions highlighted the need for dedicated rehabilitation facilities. Centring on asylums and inebriate reformatories, medical discourses and government policies surrounding treatment and health implications, this project will question how, why and to what extent medicine came to influence treatment, care and rehabilitation and whether the medical profession informed official and lay discourses. 

This study will employ historical methodologies to inform present-day social concerns.