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Title: Medical understandings of alcohol and the liver in twentieth-century Britain
Author: Yokoe, Ryosuke
ISNI:       0000 0004 7655 3648
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis foregrounds the importance of medicine in shaping the public discussions on alcohol misuse. A wide range of medical and non-medical sources reveal the factors that contributed to the shifting medical understandings of alcohol and its relation to the liver, as well as exposing the subsequent impact of such shifts on the policy debates over alcohol and licensing in twentieth-century Britain. Instead of being a product of changing social and cultural attitudes towards drink, I argue that the medical knowledge of alcohol's causation of cirrhosis were formulated on a set of strict scientific criteria that took into account the available evidence. Although assumed today to be a direct outcome of heavy drinking, cirrhosis was shown in clinical and experimental studies from the middle of the century to be most likely caused by nutritional deficiency. The direct toxicity of alcohol to the liver was further demonstrated in the 1970s through the successful reproduction of cirrhosis in experimental animals. As the quintessential illness of the heavy drinker, cirrhosis was often at the heart of the dialogue surrounding alcohol use and harm in Britain. The variable extent to which drink was understood to be culpable for liver damage had a direct bearing on how different groups, including the temperance movement and the alcoholic beverage industry, exaggerated or downplayed alcohol's destructive properties. Contrary to the tendency of the existing historical literature to disassociate the perceptions and responses to alcohol use from the scientific knowledge on its effects on the body, this thesis shows that expert medical understandings of alcohol and the liver influenced how drink was conceptualised in relation to harm.
Supervisor: Withington, Phil ; Gleeson, Dermot ; Cooper, Richard ; Vincent, Mary Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available