Drunkenness and naughty vicars

In the first half of 2015, I worked as a research associate on the AHRC and ESRC-funded project Intoxicants and Early Modernity. My work coincided with the transcription and modelling of intoxicant-linked events from consistory (church) court records. 

Archived documents from the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries included repeated accusations of illicit brewing, alcohol-fuelled adultery, and other extra-marital deviance (including some unpleasant tales of sexual assault). Some brought counter-suits, alleging that accusations about drinking behaviours were themselves slanderous.

Due to the nature of the source, I encountered a multitude of naughty vicars—or at least vicars accused of intemperance and appropriate behaviour. Deponents testified too to the misconduct of schoolmasters–guilty of frequenting alehouses, and other unsuitable pursuits.

The surviving documents often show more than one side to the story, and seldom include any record of a case’s outcome. A paper based on the Consistory court phase was presented at QMUL’s “Beyond the Coffee House” conference in June 2015. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of the project as a whole.


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