HomeDrunkeness from Antiquity to the present day

HomeDrunkeness from Antiquity to the present day

Drunkeness from Antiquity to the present day

L'ivresse de l'Antiquité à nos jours

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Published on Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Ce colloque sur l’ivresse devra s’inscrire dans un démarche pluridisciplinaire et internationale fondée sur l’histoire, l’anthropologie et l’ethnologie mais ouverte aux autres discours : de la médecine à la psychologie, de l’histoire de l’art à la philosophie, de la géographie à l’économie, des lettres classiques et modernes à la sociologie. Le champ d’étude de ce colloque sera européen voire mondial. Il s’agira de confronter les points de vue pour aboutir à un état des lieux de la recherche à partir de quatre questionnements : avec quoi s'enivrer et dans quelles quantités ? La bonne ivresse. Pourquoi s'enivrer et comment le justifier ? L'opposition à l'ivresse : acteurs, discours et pratiques. Typologie de l'ivresse de l'Antiquité à nos jours.



Drunkenness, i.e. a psychological and physical reaction caused by excessive consumption of alcoholic drink, has been part of European culture from antiquity to the present day. Today, the World Health Organisation considers it to be a worldwide problem, which causes 2.5 million deaths a year and 'many serious social and developmental issues, including violence, child neglect and abuse, and absenteeism in the workplace'.

This conference on drunkenness will embrace an international multidisciplinary approach based on history, anthropology, and ethnology, but will also be open to other views: from medicine to psychology, from the history of art to philosophy, from geography to economics, and from classical and modern literature to sociology. The field of study of this two-day conference will be European, and even worldwide, and various perspectives will be compared in order to take stock of research.

To ensure coherence in the programme, here are four lines of questioning, which will also be topics for thought and discussion.

  • Getting drunk – with what and how much?

The drink with which a person gets drunk says a lot about a culture, whether today or in the past. Binge drinking based on the rapid consumption of spirits does not have the same signification as alcoholism resulting from the social drinking of grand cru wines.

The question of the threshold from which a drinker becomes drunk is also raised. The possibility of scientifically quantifying the volume of alcohol in the blood is recent, and so prior to this what were the thresholds from which a drinker was considered to be drunk? When science does not make it possible for thresholds to be determined, what replaces it? Religious authorities? Political authorities? Society? In that case, what amounts are permitted, and to what extent can a certain continuity of the approved amount be observed from antiquity to the present day? It will be necessary to try and quantify drunkenness as much as possible. A comparative approach will enable things to be made clearer and the features of each period and each cultural area to be brought out.

  • Good drunkenness. Why get drunk and how to justify it?

Drunkenness has both a positive and a negative side. In which cases can there be said to be good drunkenness? Why, historically, has drunkenness sometimes been perceived positively? It will be necessary to reflect on how drunkenness has been justified from antiquity to the present day by bringing out the cultural, social, medical, religious, political, economic, psychological, and other arguments in favour of drunkenness. We shall also attempt to establish links between the past and the present. For instance, the creative capacity of drunkenness, e.g. as the source of Greek tragedy and comedy, is well-known. To what extent is there continuity between the authors of Ancient Greece and contemporary artists? How and to what extent have authors and artists dealt with the subject - from literature to painting, from drinking songs to opera, and from works of art depicting 'drunken Bacchus' to modern art?

  • The opposition to drunkenness: actors, views, and practices

In different periods of history, drunkenness has also been criticised and even campaigned against. In which case is drunkenness considered to be bad drunkenness? What are the arguments put forward? It will be necessary to emphasise which authorities, e.g. religious, political, legal, medical, social, moral, and economic, lead the offensive against drunkenness. More often than not, this opposition is not rigid. Certain places, certain times, certain social categories, and certain drinks are more directly stigmatised. For what reasons?

It will also be necessary to think about the responses brought to bear on the issue of drunkenness. What solutions, e.g. political, religious, and social, and remedies have been proposed from antiquity to the present day? In early 17th century France, the two medical solutions proposed were to await the natural dissipation of the intoxicating vapours by leaving the drinker to sleep it off, or to speed up recovery by purging the drunken person by making them vomit, giving them an enema, or bleeding them. Preventive remedies based on coriander, olive oil, or the ash of swallows' beaks were also considered. The issue of solutions relates to cultural differences, from antiquity to the present day, from the Hippocratic theory of humours to the chemical understanding of pathologies. In what way and in line with what tempo are sobriety-related views and practices spread throughout the world, by means, for example, of public awareness campaigns, pressure groups, associations, and regulations on the marketing of alcoholic drinks? Finally, the extent to which these different fights against drunkenness have been successful will be considered. Sometimes the law is different from the social norm. The presentation of standards will have to be linked with practice. Don't opposition movements more often than not end up with a compromise?

  • Typology of drunkenness from antiquity to the present day

All contributions should make possible the outlining of a typology of drunkenness, classified by age, sex, social category, religion, intoxicating drink, cultural area, or historical period. This typology should not leave aside the issue of mental models. What is the image of the drunk? In which case are they perceived as being a high-spirited drinker and in which other do they become an irresponsible person identified with the dregs of humanity? Attention will be focused on the similarities and differences between the drunkenness of the past and that of today. What is the link between the potos, or regulated drinking session which took place at the end of Greek banquets, and, in the 21st century, the apéro Facebook gatherings of young people in the West? What is the relationship between modern youth's sociabilising drunkenness and binge drinking or the Spanish botellón? Is there a link between 'Ancien Régime's culture of drunkenness', which is a prominent feature in modern France, and the cultures of drunkenness in different cultural areas? The comparison of the results will enable each period's and each cultural area's essential features to be brought out.

Submission guidelines

The papers will be given in French or English.

Deadline : October 1st 2013

Proposals for papers can be in French or English, and should include a title, an abstract of 1,500 characters, and a CV. They should be sent to the following address: matthieu.lecoutre@univ-tours.fr

Scientific committee

  • Isabelle BIANQUIS (Anthropologie, Université de Tours François-Rabelais)
  • Thibaut BOULAY (Histoire ancienne, Université de Tours François-Rabelais)
  • Marie CHOQUET (Psychologie INSERM, CHU Cochin, IREB)
  • Patrice COUZIGOU (Hépato-gastro-entérologue, CHU Bordeaux, IREB)
  • Matthieu LECOUTRE (Histoire moderne, Université de Tours François-Rabelais/Université de Bourgogne)
  • Véronique NAHOUM-GRAPPE (Anthropologie, EHESS, IREB)
  • Didier NOURRISSON (Histoire contemporaine, Lyon1, IREB)
  • Florent QUELLIER (Histoire moderne, Université de Tours François-Rabelais)

This International conference, organised by L’Équipe Alimentation (EA 6294-LÉA, University of Tours François-Rabelais) and the Institut de recherches scientifiques sur les boissons (IREB), will be hold in the University of Tours- France, November, 20-21, 2014.


  • 3 rue des Tanneurs
    Tours, France (37)


  • Tuesday, October 01, 2013


  • ivresse, drunkenness


  • Matthieu Lecoutre
    courriel : matthieu [dot] lecoutre [at] univ-tours [dot] fr

Information source

  • Matthieu Lecoutre
    courriel : matthieu [dot] lecoutre [at] univ-tours [dot] fr


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Drunkeness from Antiquity to the present day », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, https://calenda.org/248946

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