Introduced from Holland after the Glorious
Revolution, gin was meant to provide an economic boost
for England's corn farmers. But instead gin-drinking
reached epidemic proportions in the slums of London,
where it was sold from shops and market stalls, from
basements, even from barrows in the streets.
London was a violent and insecure town. Reformers soon
blamed 'Madam Geneva' for everything from social decay
to rising crime and the collapse of families. Eight
major acts were passed in an attempt to control it.
When prohibition was - unsuccessfully - introduced in
1736 it was greeted with popular riots and the explosion
of a bomb in Westminster Hall. The arguments about gin
drew in writers such as Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding,
and the campaign for reform reached its climax with
the unforgettable image of Hogarth's 'Gin Lane'.
This is the story of Madam
Geneva's rise and fall. Gin-drinkers and sellers, politicians
and distillers all add their voices to Patrick Dillon's
vivid account of London's first drug craze, which takes
us from the corridors of power to the cornfields of
Norfolk, from the pulpits of reformers to the tenements
of St Giles-in-the-Fields.