Introduced from Holland after the Glorious Revolution, gin was meant to provide an economic boost for England’s corn farmers. But instead gin-drinking reached epidemic proportions in the slums of London, where it was sold from shops and market stalls, from basements, even from barrows in the streets.
Early eighteenth-century London was a violent and insecure town. Reformers soon blamed ‘Madam Geneva’ for everything from social decay to rising crime and the collapse of families. Eight major acts were passed in an attempt to control it. When prohibition was – unsuccessfully - introduced in 1736 it was greeted with popular riots and the explosion of a bomb in Westminster Hall. The arguments about gin drew in writers such as Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding, and the campaign for reform reached its climax with the unforgettable image of Hogarth’s ‘Gin Lane’.
This is the story of Madam Geneva’s rise and fall. Gin-drinkers and sellers, politicians and distillers all add their voices to Patrick Dillon’s vivid account of London’s first drug craze, which takes us from the corridors of power to the cornfields of Norfolk, from the pulpits of reformers to the tenements of St Giles in the Fields.
PATRICK DILLON was born in London in 1962. Awarded a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, he instead studied architecture in London, and qualified as an architect in 1987. His two crime novels, Truth and Lies, were published by Penguin in 1996 and 1997.In 2002 he combined long-standing interests in history and London with his acclaimed study of the Eighteenth-Century Gin Craze, The Much-Lamented Death of Madam Geneva, published by Headline. Based on lengthy research into original archives, court records and newspapers, Madam Geneva painted a vivid picture of crime, politics and social...
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