Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wow, that's a lot of beer

I had to do a lot of math to figure this out, but according to Gregory King, the annual consumption of beer and ale in early modern England was 381 liters/person.  That would mean that my family (five of us) would drink approximately 9.5 gallons of beer every week. Wow. We only drink 3 gallons of milk a week, and I thought that was a lot. 

OK, the real reason I'm looking into this has to do with my EMC article. I wanted to determine the relative importance of pasture vs. arable land in the 17th century. Approximately 62% of England's agricultural economy was pastoral, according to King. That's roughly twice the value of the arable economy. Fun stuff.  And you can track some of the anxieties about this in popular ballads of the period, too. In one of these, we hear that, "the Shepherdes God, / Doth deface Ladie Ceres crowne, / And Tilli[n]ges doth decay / Doth decay in every Town." Pasture was sometimes associated with the wool industry and thus with foreign trade and wealth rather than food.  Sounds a bit like the complaints about ethanol and corn these days.

Anonymous. “A Songe Bewailing the time of Christmas, So much decayed in England.” Old English Ballads 1553-1625. Ed. Hyder Rollins. Cambridge, 1920. 372-375. 

King, Gregory. “Natural and Political Observations and Conclusions upon the State & Condition of England (1696).” A reprint of economic tracts. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1936. 12-56. 

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