Ref: C2524780

Humans have been resorting to alcohol for thousands of years, but more or less everything about the experience of drinking has changed over and over again. We will explore the drinking contexts of the ancient world, including the Greek symposium, before focussing on England from Saxon times on, from the mead hall to the alehouse to the saloon bar. Learn how alcohol killed Charles the Bad (not the way you expect), how to get gin out of an eighteenth-century "puss and mew" machine (and why you probably shouldn't), how the newly fashionable "porter" accidentally killed eight Londoners, and how to behave at an ancient Egyptian festival of drunkenness! We'll look at a range of historic sources, including drinking songs, local newspapers and satirical prints, to investigate the who, why, what, where and how of drinking habits through the ages.

Course aim

This course will cover the history of alcohol from earliest times to the 1920s, focussing on the story of English drinks and drinking habits.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • No skills or experience needed

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Understand the changing nature of alcoholic drinks and their social meanings through the ages
  • Describe some of the sources used in studying a history of alcohol
  • Understand the development of the pub from its medieval roots Understand the development of the pub from its medieval roots Understand the development of the pub from its medieval roots

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning

What else do I need to know?

  • All materials will be provided

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • There is no set course material but suggestions of interesting websites or books will be made throughout the course should you wish to pursue them.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider

Download full course information sheet



As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2018
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact courseenquiries@wea.org.uk

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